NEW DELHI - India's home affairs minister on Saturday accused Pakistani "state actors" of attempting to destabilise India, reiterating an accusation commonly levelled by the South Asian giant at its northern Muslim neighbour.
Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh told a security conference in India's northeast that Pakistan was still supporting militants fighting New Delhi's rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. Singh pointed to a guerrilla attack earlier this week on an army patrol in Indian-administered Kashmir in which at least 10 people were killed.
"It is unfortunate Pakistan does not mend its ways," Singh said, singling out Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence as one of the "state actors" seeking to roil India's security. "I do not hesitate in saying Pakistani state actors have a role in destabilising India," Singh said, repeating a longstanding Indian demand that Pakistan rein in Islamic militants.
Singh's remarks come on the heels of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)summit held earlier this week in Nepal that was overshadowed by India and Pakistan's rivalry and ended with little progress towards regional integration.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been a flashpoint in relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought two of their three wars since independence from Britain over the picturesque region. The divided Kashmir region is held in part by Pakistan and India, but claimed in full by both.
Since 1989 about a dozen rebel groups, seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan, have been fighting Indian forces - a battle that has left tens of thousands of people dead, most of them civilians. Indian politicians have called the recent militant attack in Kashmir, which came as the state is engaged in elections, a deliberate attempt to upset relations between India and Pakistan.
Singh also voiced concern about Indian young people joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as Indian investigators interrogated a 23-year-old Mumbai-area man who returned home Friday from the Middle East. The man is believed to have spent nearly six months fighting for the Islamic State, according to Indian police.
"Even though ISIS was born in Iraq and Syria, the Indian subcontinent cannot stay untouched by it - we need to be aware of that reality," Singh said. Muslims make up some 14.4 per cent of majority Hindu India's population, accounting for about 176 million people, according to a report by the Pew Research Center, a US think-tank.
More radical forms of Islam have not gained much of a foothold in India, despite the Muslim minority lagging behind the Hindu population economically. "A few Indian youth are getting swayed towards it (ISIS), which is a matter of concern," the home minister said. India was ready to deal with such security challenges, he added.