WASHINGTON: The Obama administration on Wednesday repeated its support for “freedom of expression and assembly” in the context of the Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement in India while contesting the impression that Washington is interfering in India's internal affairs or seeking to destabilize it in any way.
“All democratic governments have a responsibility to allow peaceful protest and freedom of dissent, even as they work to maintain public safety,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, amid a minor kerfuffle in India's Congress party circles over remarks on the Hazare movement attributed to Washington.
A Congress party spokesman on Tuesday implied the US was going beyond routine expressions of support and interfering with India's internal affairs. “How can we take orders from the United States?” party official Rashid Alvi was quoted as saying, “We don't want any outside interference.”
Alvi's gripe arose from Nuland's remarks last week to the effect that the US supported the right of peaceful, non- v
iolent 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,” she added. Nuland suggested that some Indian news outlets had gone overboard on reporting the remarks out of context.
On Wednesday, she repeated the remarks, stressing even more that “India is a country that has a strong and long-established democratic tradition” and “It's a country that people look to for these issues, and it has a long tradition of nonviolent protest.”
“It's widely admired for these things and open debate, and that's the standard that we all have come to expect from India,” she added.
The Obama administration has been pilloried for its weak support to the Arab spring movement even as it seeks to address the growing domestic economic unrest and inequity.
As a matter of policy, Washington is extremely circumspect in addressing internal developments in India, deferring frequently to the country's flourishing democracy and strong institutions.