After a top state department official’s remark on Anna Hazare’s anti-graft campaign evoked sharp criticism in India, a senior US diplomat Wednesday refrained from making a comment on the Gandhian’s stir, saying it was an “internal” matter. “The US supports democracy. We support a vibrant democracy. This (Hazare stir) is an internal matter (for) India to decide how that is handled,” US consul General Peter Haas said, adding, “India, like the United States, is a vibrant democracy and a country that supports the freedom of speech and the right of assembly,” Haas, who was posted to Mumbai earlier this month, further added, “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to comment.”
Recently, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, replying to a query about the movement against corruption by Hazare, had said, “As you know, we support the right of peaceful, non-violent protest around the world. That said, India is a democracy, and we count on India to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it deals with peaceful protest.”
After the remarks drew sharp criticism in Mumbai, the US had blamed “inaccurate reporting” in India for creating an impression that it had issued a strong statement on the anti-graft protests. Haas refused to bracket the protests in Arab countries with anti-corruption stir in India, saying democracy was a crucial difference between the two. “I think the crucial difference here is that India is a democracy. I think that sums it up…the difference.” He was replying to a query on the difference between the protests in India and the ‘Arab uprising’ in countries like Syria, Libya and Egypt, at the Press Club in Mumbai.