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India, Pakistan pledge more cooperation

Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusaf Raza Gilani agree to work together to combat terrorism and have their diplomats meet more often to repair ties. But India refuses to resume formal peace talks.

July 17, 2009|Reuters

SHARM EL SHEIK, EGYPT — India and Pakistan agreed Thursday to work together to fight terrorism and ordered their top diplomats to meet as often as needed to try to rebuild ties damaged by attacks last year in Mumbai.

But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking after talks with Pakistani counterpart Yusaf Raza Gilani in Egypt, ruled out resuming formal peace talks, known as the "composite dialogue," that Islamabad has been seeking.

"Composite dialogue cannot begin unless and until terrorist heads which shook Mumbai are properly accounted for, [and] perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to book," Singh said at a news conference afterward. India broke off the formal peace process after the attacks on Mumbai, formerly Bombay, by Pakistan-based militants who New Delhi says must have had the help of Pakistani security agents.

Islamabad denies state agencies had any role and says it will prosecute those accused of involvement in the attacks.

In a statement after meeting on the sidelines of a Nonaligned Movement summit of developing nations, the two prime ministers "affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end."

"Both prime ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward," the statement said, adding that the countries' senior diplomats would continue meeting. The joint statement said the foreign ministries' top civil servants, India's Shivshankar Menon and Pakistan's Salman Bashir, "should meet as often as necessary" and report to their foreign ministers.

In the statement, Gilani pledged that Pakistan would "do everything in its power" to bring those behind the Mumbai attacks to justice and Singh said his government was "ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan."

The talks at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik was the third high-level encounter between the two neighbors since the Mumbai assault.

"It's a good step forward and it's a way out of the impasse that the two sides found themselves in after Mumbai," said C. Raja Mohan, professor of South Asia studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technology University.

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