Is India bucking a global realist trend?

Or is it displaying realism of another kind?

Bucking the global realist trend ( an average, an international opinion poll shows, one out of every two persons in the world believes that the conflict between Islam and the West is due to political power and interests. (via The Washington Realist) One country bucks that trend more than any other—India.

The most common view among Indians is that Muslim and Western cultures can find common ground (35%) but a significant number feel that conflict between the two is inevitable (24%). Indian views about the source of tensions between Islam and the West are also somewhat mixed, with many not taking a position. About a third (32%) say that tensions arise from conflicts over political power and interests, while a quarter (25%) blame differences in religion and culture. Similarly, while 43 percent of Indians believe that intolerant minorities are the cause of current tensions between Islam and the West, 27 percent cite fundamental differences between the two cultures. Among those who blame intolerant minorities, nineteen percent specify a Muslim minority, while smaller numbers say an intolerant Western minority (12%) or intolerance on both sides (12%). [PIPA/]

Excluding fence-sitters Indian ‘realists’ still outnumber those who believe that the conflict is about religious values. Yet on this issue at least, realists constitute a much smaller fraction of the population than in any other country surveyed. Let’s not forget though that India has the greatest amount of experience managing religious diversity within a constitutional democratic framework than any of those countries. Indeed, the Indian response may be an optimistic realism—though that sounds like an oxymoron to Western Realists—of an everyday kind.

6 thoughts on “Is India bucking a global realist trend?”

  1. “Indian response may be an optimistic realism…”

    Nitin, I am not sure why it’s optimistic though. To me the vast majority are saying they don’t care why there is a clash between west and Islam (highest % of all nations given).

  2. Chandra: guess Indians are saying it may not be an issue – I’m sure we care though. Agree with Nitin’s contention that we may have reason to be cautiously optimistic given our history of having worked things out. All the rest are relative babies on this front – hence their armageddon-like views.

    I may be completely wrong – but my recent trip to India bore this out. We sorted out our religious differences when most of us had nothing – it’s much easier now with serious economic interdependence, and with a much bigger pie.

  3. Libertarian, you may be right. I guess the report said that most didn’t want to take a position on that question of clash between west and Islam which led me to think that most don’t think it was an issue or have enough information about it – that’s what I meant to say in the previous comment.

    I am not sure India is such a good example – our history is riddled with fights and killings whether they were whipped up by imperial third party or local leaders trying to gain control over issues (it’s a pre-BJP phenomena that continues). I may be wrong, but Indian solutions to deal with disparities between religious groups will not be acceptable to most other nations/societies. Our political and sociological solutions are mostly quick fixes that do more harm in the long run.

  4. Chandra,

    Why optimistic? Because:

    The most common view among Indians is that Muslim and Western cultures can find common ground (35%) but a significant number feel that conflict between the two is inevitable (24%).

    Why realism? Because the ‘conflict’ between Islam and the West is not monolithic, but nuanced. There is certainly a statist-political-power element to it, as various Middle Eastern states look for opportunities to enhance their own power relative to others (and the West). Then there is the religious-social component to it, where many Western countries have to contend with minorities and immigrants with vastly different value systems than their own traditional ones. The question does not distinguish the two…but, it can be argued, Indian respondents do. So Indian respondents could be demonstrating both political realism (states maximising power) and an astute general realism (seeing the world as it is).

    My argument is that compared to other countries on the list, India has the greatest experience managing these tensions. Of course, the Indian model may neither be perfect nor replicable anywhere else. But I would ask, compared to what?

  5. “The question does not distinguish the two…”

    Aren’t those two the options to the question – political or values?

    Indian model, as driven by the government and not as practiced by normal people in everyday life, may not be replicated not because there are competing models but because no other society on planet is like India. Americas to Europe to West Asia to Africa do not have societies such as ours where it is acceptable to claim minorities have more claim on the nation than the majority – not equal, but more – and it’s just not declarative. It’s not just Manmohan but our solutions to issues are symptomatic of the claim. Even if this model is superior, a dubious assumption to me anyway, I think it cannot be replicated elsewhere. When others hear of Indian model as driven by government, unknowledgeable people will wonder and people in the know will smile politely.

  6. Chandra,

    What I meant was that “Islam vs West” is not a monolithic conflict, so asking a general question “what causes the Islam vs West” does not distinguish the underlying conflicts.

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