India And Pakistan Said On Thursday They Had Agreed To Continue Dialogue And Would Not Link Action On Fighting Terrorism To That Process, After Their Prime Ministers Met In Egypt.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also ordered senior diplomats to meet as often as needed to improve relations.

Thursday's meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was the third high-level encounter between the two neighbors since last year's Mumbai attacks derailed any rapprochement.

Both prime ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process, a joint statement said after the meeting on the fringes of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The premiers also affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end.

Analysts said the statement gave both sides something to take home, partly by keeping open the nature of future dialogue. They said it had helped dig the two countries out of an impasse after the Mumbai attacks that killed at least 166 people.

India said the Mumbai assault was carried out by Pakistani militants who must have had help from Pakistani security agents. Pakistan has denied any involvement by state agencies and says it will prosecute militants suspected of involvement.

They have affirmed their faith in dialogue without making any commitment on the precise nature of dialogue which means it's open-ended and India will make its decision about dialogue when it is satisfied with Pakistan's performance on terrorism, said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based independent analyst.


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

Pakistan has been keen to revive a five-year-old composite dialogue to cover all disputes between the two.

India has said Pakistan must crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the Mumbai assault, as well as tackle other militant groups that have launched attacks elsewhere

Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues, the statement said.

Gilani pledged Pakistan will do everything in its power to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai to justice, the statement said.

It added that both foreign secretaries, India's Shivshankar Menon and Pakistan's Salman Bashir, should meet as often as necessary and report to the two foreign ministers.

The two senior diplomats who held two rounds of talks in Egypt this week prior to Thursday's meeting of premiers.

In Islamabad, the Supreme Court adjourned for two weeks an appeal hearing by the government challenging the release of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

Saeed became head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity, regarded as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba. He was put under house arrest in December after the United Nations added him and the charity to its terrorist list in the weeks following the Mumbai attacks.

(Additional reporting Cynthia Johnston in Sharm el-Sheikh, Bryson Hull in New Delhi, Simon Cameron-Moore in Islamabad; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Angus MacSwan)