US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first senior member of the Biden administration to visit India, said on Saturday that he had a conversation with Indian ministers about isues of human rights of the country’s minorities. Speaking at a press conference in Delhi on Saturday towards the end of his three-day visit to India, Austin said that he had raised the issue during his interactions with Indian interlocutors as “partners need to be able to have those kinds of discussions”.
Austin said, “We have to remember that India is our 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 still make progress."
He also said, "We always lead with our values. As a democracy that is 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."
Lloyd J Austin arrived in India on Friday on a three-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral defense and security ties further in the wake of China's growing military assertiveness in the region including the Indo-Pacific. India is the third stop of Austin's three-nation first overseas tour, and the visit is seen as a strong commitment of the Joe Biden administration to its close allies and partners in the region.
On Saturday India and the United States have agreed to expand their military engagement and bilateral cooperation for the strategic global partnership said Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh after meeting with Lloyd Austin. The two officials held discussions on wide-ranging defense cooperation, information-sharing in emerging areas, and mutual logistical support. "We focused on expanding military-to-military engagement," Singh said, adding that the countries are determined to realize the full potential of comprehensive global strategic partnership.
According to a joint statement, the two sides reviewed many bilateral and multilateral exercises and agreed on increased cooperation between the Indian military, the US Indo-Pacific, Central, and Africa Commands. Meanwhile, Austin asserted that India continues to be an important partner in 'rapidly shifting international dynamics' and reaffirmed his commitment to a comprehensive defense partnership, terming it as a central pillar of its approach to the Indo-Pacific region. Earlier on Friday, the US Defence Secretary met NSA Ajit Doval and discussed areas of mutual interest, strategic partnership, and cooperation on various aspects of security and defense.