United States Vice-Consul Maureen Chao on Saturday expressed deep regrets at what the United States Consulate in Chennai described as an “inappropriate comment” she made during a Study Abroad Orientation Program at SRM University on Friday.

[Describing a train journey during her first visit to India, she said the train halted and did not move for a long time because the railway staff were on strike. “I was very dirty and dark,” she said, and after a pause, “I was looking like a Tamilian.”]

A consulate press release said the Vice-Consul was describing positive memories from her own study abroad experiences in India 23 years ago. “During the speech Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent.”

The release added: “As Secretary Hillary Clinton recently noted, the U.S.-India partnership is based on our shared values of democracy, liberty and respect for religious and cultural diversity. The U.S. Consulate in Chennai and the U.S. Mission in India are committed to upholding these shared values.”

Remarks condemnable, says Jayalalithaa

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Jennifer McIntyre, United States Consul-General in Chennai, on Saturday, observing, “This remark which smacks of racism is highly condemnable.”

Ms. Jayalalithaa further went on to add in her letter (a copy of which was released to the media), “You will all agree that this remark of the Vice-Consul is an affront to all Tamils. I would like to request you to impress upon Ms. Maureen Chao that she has to withdraw this remark and also apologise for having made such a comment on the Tamils.”

Uncalled for: CPI

New Delhi Special Correspondent writes:

Angered by the “racist” comments by United States Vice Consul Maureen Chao, the Communist Party of India on Saturday said the Government of India should lodge a strong protest with Washington. Party National Secretary D. Raja said the remarks were “uncalled for… the Indian government should lodge a strong protest with the U.S. in this regard. The U.S. should withdraw her from here.”