Victoria Nuland has answered more questions on Anna Hazare than any Indian spokesperson yet. And she is neither Indian, nor does she speak for the Indian government. She is the US state department spokesperson.
Almost every day since the weekend before the Independence Day, the US state department has been the sole international response to an issue that is almost exclusively domestic. Nuland erred in her first response to a question at her daily response, raising a storm in India, by urging restraint.
There have been reports since of Indians from across the US turning up in hordes in support of Hazare's movement against corruption in India. That’s a bit of an exaggeration.
“The response here is largely along political lines,” said Sunil Adam, editor of an Indian community paper in New York- New Jersey area. While factions aligned with the Congress are silent, those with the BJP have been most vociferous. But their engagement has been nothing compared to that in the state department briefing, where journalists from India, or of Indian origin who made a sport of trapping the spokesperson into a new controversy.
Sample this, an exchange from an exchange at the briefing on August 25.
QUESTION: Is there anyone in the Obama Administration or State Department in touch with the Indian Government as the nonviolent protest fasting by Anna Hazare is entering 11th day?
MS NULAND: Obviously, our Embassy has been monitoring the situation, and I think they have been saying the same thing in Delhi that we’ve been saying here with regard to our confidence and expectation that India is going to be able to address its internal matters, political disputes, through its own democratic system.
QUESTION: There have been protests in many U.S. cities, and there are —
MS NULAND: Many US cities?
QUESTION: Many US cities. And there is a protest everyday in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington. Are you monitoring that, and do you have any comment on that?
MS NULAND: Well, you know we support the right of peaceful protest, including and especially in the United States.
Don’t miss the sarcasm in the spokesperson’s response: “Many US cities?” This exchange figured towards the end of the briefing, as it has always had every time Hazare came up as an issue. And it’s always in response to Indian journalists here hoping to catch the spokesperson on the wrong foot.
Indian-Americans are following the story closely from San Francisco to Florida, but always as a development that Indian can handle on its own. Not one of them has sought the US government’s intervention.