Indians See India’s Global Influence Growing, While Others See It Stagnant or Declining: Pew Study

Indians See India's Global Influence Growing, While Others See It Stagnant or Declining: Pew Study

Sixty-eight per cent Indian adults believe that India’s influence has risen in the world, but only a median of 28% adults across 19 other countries in the world think so. Seventy-nine per cent Indian adults have faith in Narendra Modi to do the right thing, much higher than a median of only 37% adults in 12 other countries who have the same confidence in the Indian Prime Minister.

At the same time, most countries lean positively towards India, with a median of 46% adults in 23 countries expressing favourable views of India in general, compared to 34% adults who have an unfavourable view. Among all the countries, India enjoys the highest positive ratings in Israel.

These are among the findings of a major new study conducted by Pew Research Center on India’s global influence, a foreign policy issue that has found its way into Indian domestic politics where a key campaign plank of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the rise in India’s prestige globally under Modi. Conducted between February 20 and May 22 this year, and released on Tuesday ahead of India hosting the G20 Summit, the survey is based on responses of 30,861 adults in 24 countries, including India. The study also incorporates the results of separate surveys done by Pew last year.

Among the key takeaways from the survey is that while India remains more liked than disliked, the perception of Indians about India’s influence and Modi’s qualities is more positive than how the rest of the world views both the country and the PM. It also shows that barring Nigeria and Kenya, the favourability ratings for India have dipped in most countries, with the dip most acute in Europe. For instance, if 70% adults surveyed in France, India’s closest strategic partner in Europe, expressed positive views of India in 2008, only 39% French adults have the same positive views in 2023, a 31 percentage point drop in 15 years.

Indians also stand apart from others in their views of the US, Russia and China. Sixty-five per cent Indian adults view the US favourably, while the median favourability rating for the US globally is 59%. A majority of Indians, at 57%, also view Russia favourably, while the median approval rating for Russia across 23 other countries is just 14%. The countries most disliked in India are, unsurprisingly, China and Pakistan, with 67% expressing an unfavourable view of Beijing, and 73% doing the same for Islamabad, among which 57% express a very unfavourable view.

How the world sees India

India enjoys a higher favourability than unfavourability rating across most countries in the world.

Among Quad partners, 51% Americans, 55% Japanese, and 52% Australians view India positively. In Africa, 64% in Kenya and 60% in Nigeria view India in a positive light. But South Africa stands out as an exception in the continent, with only 28% expressing positive views while 51% in the country with which India has shared a close historic relationship view New Delhi negatively. In Latin America, Mexico is the only country where India enjoys a higher favourability rating than unfavourability rating; in both Brazil and Argentina, more adults are negative than positive towards India.

Sixty-six per cent of adults in the UK view India positively, while 52% Italians do the same. Netherlands, Spain and Greece stand out for more adults expressing unfavourable views of India than favourable ones, France is split with 39% expressing positive and 39% expressing negative views of India.

But the country where India enjoys the highest favourability rating is Israel, with 71% adults surveyed expressing positive views and only 20% expressing an unfavourable view.

In terms of political complexion, while those who favour right-wing parties in Hungary, Australia and Israel are likely to be more positive towards India, the exception is the US. Liberals, according to the Pew survey, are 10 percentage points more likely than conservatives to hold a positive view of India.

Providing what will be food for thought to Indian policymakers, the survey points out that there has been a dip in India’s ratings across geographies. In 2016, 52% Canadians were positive about India; the figure now is 47%. In 2008, 60% Germans saw India favourably, the number today is 47%. If, in 2018, 57% Indonesians saw India positively, the figure today is 45%. Even in Japan, favourability ratings have dipped slightly from 58% to 55% from 2018 to 2023, while in South Korea, it has dipped from 64% to 58%. In the US, compared to 2015, where 63% were positive about India, the figure today is 51%.

The exceptions to this trend are Nigeria, where from 45% adults expressing positive views of India in 2013, today, 60% do the same, and Kenya, where India’s favourability ratings have gone up from 61% to 64% in a decade.

How the world sees Modi

Across 12 countries where adults were asked about their views of Modi, a median of 40% adults have no faith in the Indian PM “doing the right thing regarding world affairs”, while 37% believed he would do the right thing.

In the US, 37% have no confidence in the PM while 21% do; 40% of the survey respondents in America hadn’t heard of Modi. 45% in Japan have faith he will do the right thing, compared to 37% who don’t. Australians and Israelis are almost evenly split on Modi, with 41% having faith in him and 42% lacking confidence in both countries. Once again, Kenya and Nigeria stand out — 60% Kenyans and 47% Nigerians have confidence in Modi.

The PM is unpopular in Latin America, where 60% Mexicans, 54% Brazilians and 41% Argentinians lack confidence in Modi.

How India sees itself and the world

The global figures stand in sharp contrast to the attitudes in India. While 79% Indians see Modi favourably, among them, 55% see him “very favourably”. The Pew survey also asked respondents about other domestic leaders, among whom Rahul Gandhi ranks second in ratings, with 60% of Indian adults surveyed viewing him positively.

On India’s influence globally, 68% Indians see it as growing. When broken down according to party loyalties, 77% of those who support the ruling alliance see this to be the case while 60% of those who don’t identify with ruling parties agree India’s influence has risen. In terms of gender, 71% men, compared to 65% women, see India’s influence as having grown.

Forty-nine per cent Indian adults believe that the role of the US has become stronger compared to a median of 32% among adults in 19 countries who view US role as having grown; 65% also express positive views of the US; and 64% have faith in President Joe Biden “doing the right thing in world affairs”.

Seventy-two percent of Indian adults believe that US “takes into account interests of countries like theirs”, while only a median of 45% in 22 other countries surveyed believe this to be the case. Seventy per cent Indians also view US as contributing to peace and stability across the world, while 68% also see it as “interfering in affairs of other countries”.

On Russia, 41% Indians believe Moscow’s global influence as having grown in recent years. 57% view Russia favourably, among whom 23% view it “very favourably”. Fifty-nine per cent Indian adults surveyed also have confidence in Vladimir Putin, compared to a median of 12% across 23 other countries who have confidence in the Russian leader. Indians are also clear that maintaining access to Russian oil and energy is more important than being tough with Russia in Ukraine, with 71% expressing the view compared to a median of 27% across ten other countries who share that view.

Only 38% Indians believe China’s influence has grown, compared to a median of 66% adults in other countries seeing an increase in Beijing’s role. Sixty-seven per cent Indian adults express an unfavourable view of China, among them 50% express a “very unfavourable view”. Fifty-seven per cent Indians have “no confidence” in China’s president Xi Jinping. Over half of the Indian adults surveyed said Chinese investments have not been good for the Indian economy.

Pakistan remains the least favoured country among Indians, with 73% expressing unfavourable views. In terms of party loyalties, 81% of those who support the ruling parties in India are likely to express negative sentiments about Pakistan, compared to 68% who don’t identify with the ruling alliance. Source

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