U.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.