India accuses Pakistan of fomenting Punjab militancy

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India accused Pakistan's intelligence agency on Wednesday of trying to recruit and train militants to carry out attacks across the border in the Indian state of Punjab.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was pressuring Sikh militant leaders to target Punjab and other parts of India.

"There has been some significant development on the Sikh militancy front," Mr Shinde said in New Delhi.

"Its commanders based in Pakistan are under pressure from ISI to further ISI's terror plans not only in Punjab but also in other parts of the country," he said.

"The Sikh youths are being trained in ISI facilities in Pakistan."

The minister singled out the threat to the northwestern state during a speech to state chief ministers gathered in the capital for an annual conference on internal security.

India has long accused Pakistan of funding and directing a longstanding insurgency in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between the two rival nations but claimed by both in full.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars since partition over Kashmir, where pro-Pakistan and pro-independence rebels have battled Indian security forces for two decades in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

Mr Shinde said Punjab was also being targeted, with "a large quantity of arms and ammunition and explosives" seized by police in the last year after being smuggled across the Pakistan border.

Sikh youths living in Europe and the United States were also being encouraged to travel to Pakistan to train for terrorist-related attacks, Mr Shinde told the conference.

Tens of thousands of people died in a separatist drive for a Sikh homeland which erupted early in the 1980s in Punjab, but the strength of the militancy has since waned.

Also addressing the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged the state and national governments to work together to curb the "very grave threat" of Maoist insurgents in central India.

He has previously described the rebels as the country's most serious internal security threat.

The Maoists last month killed 24 people including local political leaders in an ambush in Chhattisgarh state.