"India is a great democracy and we tend to expect more of democracies than we do of dictatorships," Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chairperson of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in an interview with a leading daily.

The bipartisan government commission reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes non-binding policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state and the US Congress.

While acknowledging the criticism that the US International Religious Freedom Act is selectively invoked was "a valid one", Swett glibly suggested it was "a compliment to India that we hold India to a very high standard because India is the world's largest democracy".

"I would say that maybe India is held to that higher standard because you have shown that you embrace the values that we embrace in terms of democracy," she said.

Asked for the Commission's rationale for placing India on the Tier 2 list of countries, which includes Afghanistan, Russia, Cuba, Nigeria, Laos, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Swett without giving any reasons insisted that "India merits being on the Tier 2 list for the state of its religious freedom".

Instead she sought to sidetrack the issue by citing the example of Myanmar to say how "It is sometimes frustrating to see some of the countries we are critical of on the grounds of religious freedom."

After the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the commission had recommended that India be on the "countries of particular concern" list, a global list of the worst offenders of religious freedom, but the State Department ignored it.


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