United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said his country was “consistent” in how it responds to the treatment of minorities worldwide, and would respond the same way for India. He was answering a question by a reporter about India’s citizenship law in the presence of two Indian ministers in Washington.

“We care deeply and always will about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere,” Pompeo said. “We honour Indian democracy as they have a robust debate inside of India on the issue that you raised [amendments to the Citizenship Act], and the United States will be consistent in the way that we respond to these issues, not only in India but all across the world.”

Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper met India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for the “2+2 dialogue” in Washington on Wednesday. A reporter asked Pompeo: “Mr Secretary, your State Department has been a very vocal advocate of religious rights around the world. Do you think it appropriate for democracy to use faith as a determining criteria for citizenship.”

The reporter also asked the Indian ministers: “Mr Ministers, why make religion a factor in deciding who gets fast-tracked for citizenship? And why exclude Muslims from that legislation?”

After Pompeo’s response, Jaishankar said: “The question that you asked relating to India, if you had followed the debate on that particular legislation carefully, you would see that it is a measure which is designed to address the needs of persecuted religious minorities from certain countries. If you look at what those countries are and therefore what their minorities are, perhaps you understand why certain religions were identified in terms of characterising those who had come across.”

It is not clear if the contentious law was discussed during the 2+2 dialogue.