India and the United States may have their differences, but half of all Indians see the US as their country’s “most dependable future ally”, according to a Pew Research Center survey of the global attitudes of 44 nations to each other.
Russia came second at 29% and Japan a close third at 26%.
This could explain why Indians are unfazed by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of US spying or the US use of drones. Only a third felt it was “unacceptable” for the US to monitor foreign citizens or foreign leaders and only 36% said they were against the use of drones.
The sentiment is likely to deepen over time. Young Indians are more favourably inclined to the US than their elders. Nearly 60% of Indians between 18 and 29 gave America the thumbs up, compared to 47% over the age of 50.
Reasons? One, Indians still have great faith in America’s future. The number of Indians who feel China will replace the US as the world’s superpower is matched by those skeptical about the possibility. Some 47% of Indians still rate the US as the world’s leading economy, which is seven percentage points more than Americans do.
Two, Indians remain wary of China. While Pakistan is perceived as the “chief threat”, China comes in as number two. A high 72% of Indians are concerned China’s border disputes with its neighbours “could lead to military conflict”.
The number of Indians with a negative view of China’s economic growth is twice as much as those with a positive view. At 31%, the percentage of Indians with a favourable view of China is among the world’s lowest.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s overtures to New Delhi have not made an impression yet: only 13% of Indians express confidence in him while 62% have no opinion.
The survey shows Indians may like the US, but they don’t have much faith in Obama: only 22% have “a lot of confidence” in the US president doing the right thing in world affairs.
The poll was conducted in April-May in eight languages and had a sample size of 2,464.