India votes for Obama as storm clouds gather at home

November 1, 2010

INDIAU.S. President Barack Obama is facing a storm of voter discontent but in India where he travels three days after this week’s huge congressional elections, he’s already a winner. More than seven out of 10 Indians endorse his leadership, saying they believe he will do the right thing in world affairs, a Pew poll released in late October showed.

Contrast that with his approval ratings at home just as he heads into the critical midterm election. More people disapprove of his job performance (47 percent) than the number who approve (45 percent), according to the latest CBS news/New York Times opinion poll.

It’s not just Obama who gets the thumbs-up. Indians are generally well-disposed toward America even when the rest of the world is less inclined to. According to the Pew poll, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) express a favourable opinion of the U.S., although this is down from 76 percent last year. By contrast, only 51 percent Indians  rate long-time ally Russia favourably, and even fewer feel this way about the EU (36 percent) or China (34 percent).  Indeed, Indians don’t even share the common belief that the United States has increasingly been acting on its own. Some (83 percent) said the U.S. takes the interests of countries like India into account when it makes foreign policy decisions — the highest percentage among the 21 nations surveyed outside the U.S.

Quite extraordinary, the unequivocal vote of confidence in America even though the Obama administration has been more measured toward India than its predecessor; the strategic warmth that marked the Bush years having cooled off a bit.  It’s quite possible that Obama’s trip this week may turn out to be a game changer, but at the moment  for every positive aspect of their relationship, you can find another such as trade, climate change where they are on opposite sides.

India, as the Pentagon famously put it not long ago,  is neither an adversary nor an ally. It should know; for the last three years as this story notes, the Pentagon has been trying to get a logistical support agreement that will allow U.S. military planes to refuel in India. But politicians have agonised over the decision, worried that it will drive the country deeper into America’s embrace, even though ordinary Indians may not share those misgivings.

America’s popularity in India is in stark contrast to its standing in next door Pakistan, a close ally where it is spending $7.5 billion in civilian aid, not to mention a $2 billion military package approved last week. A similar poll on attitudes in Pakistan conducted by Pew in July found that despite the billions of dollars in civil and military aid, the United States had a serious image problem there. Nearly 60 percent of those polled in Pakistan described the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11 percent saw it as a partner.  Obama, barely two years in office, is already deeply unpopular. Only 8 percent of Pakistanis thought that he will do the right thing in world affairs, his lowest rating among the 22 nations that Pew surveyed.

U.S. engagement with Pakistan has been far longer and deeper than India. It’s now virtually involved in an undeclared war against al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan that most people there see as a blatant violation of its rights as a sovereign nation. The results of the survey, in that sense, cannot be compared with India. But some people, at some point, may start asking if its really worth America’s while to invest in Pakistan when it only seems to turn the country further against it.

At a recent hearing to confirm the new U.S. envoy to Pakistan, Republican senator James Risch asked if there was any sense of appreciation in Pakistan of the amount of money and effort the United States had invested in the country to pull it back from the brink.  He said the United States, deep in debt, was sacrificing its own children’s future by borrowing to invest in Pakistani infrastructure so that country returned to the straight and narrow, and not flirt with militancy.

3 comments

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It must be remembered that the Pew poll reaches a very small
proportion of the Indian populace of over a billion.These are the faux Levi ‘all dressed-up’maccas frequenters with some IT education, biding time in crowded call centers…dreaming for a Greencard!!

Posted by phoenix22 | Report as abusive

India a politically alert country feels the pulse before it reacts. The poll itself gives the answer when compared with the previous poll result. India’s poll of US and Russia and of EUROPEAN countries should not be the yardstick of a country’s popularity.
As India had been, a British colony learned a lot many tricks of the trade from them. Like the one you like most, to show grade’s him the to be the worst and the one you hate most grade’s him be the best or average. In addition, they have learned that it is safe to blame the dog before it is hanged.
Therefore, Indian Poll will be difficult to assess by the west, even British finds these days difficult to assess. Because Indians keep some margin to swing up and down depending on the success and failure of the visit from their point of view. They quickly publish a supplementary stating therein the poll result to be read as amended.
However, that is as far is about the Indian poll result’s is concerned on Obama’s visit. Those who know the Indian system, it is if one says is good than it is bad if even neutral and is worst.
India is waiting to squeeze out from US whatever it can get, so too US. That is in the mutual interest of their respective countries interest on economical aspect.
India may like to bide on armament purchase to stand erect in front of China. In addition, obviously US would be happy to agree to the proposal if there were any from Indian side.
On Political side,there may be more talks other than commercial deals. It may concern China, India’s relationship with its neighboring countries all around.
Kashmir may come up as a separate talk altogether, that may include India’s Violation of Human Rights.
The relation of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan may come up wherein USA may ask India to participate in the fight against Taliban.
Before concluding would like to say it would not be wise to make any assessment favorably or otherwise before the visit it would be better after the visit. As the early voting is mostly done to flatter the real poll, result would be after the visit if held because that will expose the intent of the initial voting.

Posted by KINGFISHER | Report as abusive

Mr Obama is definitely going to provide a great impulse for the Indian leaders and its commerce and the people of the region.
His visit to the middle east brought prosperity and peace to the people of the region. He went to Europe and excited the crowd, upset Bona part a bit and made Barlusconi nevous. At home he managed to have the health bill passed by his fellow democrats, got the approval to salvage the Investment bankers and finally managed to replace the democrat majority congress into a republican congress. He is now in India to make some bucks for the American industry and would most probably leave some attractive hightech lethal weaponry.
The leaders who are now going to call the shots in the next G20 meeting are currently having a debriefing in Paris.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive