US Secretary of Defence General Lloyd Austin on Saturday said he had a conversation with Indian ministers about human rights of minorities in the country as it was important for partners to have “those kinds of discussions”.

Asked if he had a discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about “violations of human rights especially against Muslim minorities in the northeast”, General Austin said, “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 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 in doing that. And you can have those discussions in a very meaningful way and make progress,” he added.

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