General Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, said on Saturday that he had a conversation with Indian ministers about minorities’ human rights in the country because it was important for partners to have “those types of conversations.”
When asked if he had spoken with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about “human rights abuses, particularly against Muslim minorities in the northeast,” General Austin stated, “I did not have an opportunity to talk with him about that. I did have a conversation with other members of the cabinet on this issue.”
“We have to remember that India is oaur partner, a partner whose partnership we value. And I think partners need to be able to have those kinds of discussions. And certainly, we feel comfortable doing that. And you can have those discussions in a very meaningful way and make progress,” he further added.
Earlier, in response to a question from NDTV about whether he shared Senator Robert Menendez’s fears about “the deteriorating situation of democracy in India,” General Austin said that human rights and the legal system were vital to the United States.
More About Talks On Human Rights:
“You’ve heard President [Joe] Biden say that human rights and rule of law are important to the United States of America. We always lead with our values. As a democracy that’s pretty important to us. India is a democratic country and you treasure your values as well. There are a number of things that we can and will work on together,” he said.
General Austin is the first member of US President Joe Biden’s administration to visit India, as part of attempts to build an alliance of nations to counter China’s assertiveness in the region. Before coming to the United States, he travelled to Japan and South Korea.
On his arrival in New Delhi on Friday, he met with Prime Minister Modi and spoke with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. On Saturday, he interacted with Rajnath Singh, the Defence Minister, and S Jaishankar, the External Affairs Minister. He’ll be leaving on Sunday.
“India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner among today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics,” General Austin said just after meeting Mr Singh.
“The Indian government’s ongoing crackdown on farmers peacefully protesting new farming laws and corresponding intimidation of journalists and government critics only underscores the deteriorating situation of democracy in India,” he further wrote.
“Moreover, in recent years, rising anti-Muslim sentiment and related government actions like the Citizenship Amendment Act, the suppression of political dialogue and arrest of political opponents following the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the use of sedition laws to persecute political opponents have resulted in the U.S. human rights group Freedom House stripping India of its ‘Free’ status in its yearly global survey,” the US Senator stated.