Net positive (and a lot of fence sitters)
Thanks to the wonderful people out there at WorldPublicOpinion.org, we know that 22 of the 32 countries surveyed view India’s influence on world affairs as a net positive. That was better than what China, Russia and the United States could manage. Only Argentina, Brazil, France, Finland, Philippines and South Korea believe otherwise.
Countries which viewed Indian influence most favourably were Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The survey was conducted in December 2005, after India voted to refer Iran’s nuclear weapons programme to the UN Security Council. The Iranian people didn’t seem to mind, something that Indian politicians and pundits would do well to note. Indians for their part seem to be equivocal about Iran, with a quarter for, a quarter against and the rest in the middle.
Though Indiaâ€™s global profile has grown significantly over the last year, it fails to elicit strong feelings. On average 35 percent give it a positive rating, 25 percent give it a negative rating and 41 percent do not answer one way or another.
Interestingly, Indians themselves are the most tepid or modest in their self-estimates. While in most countries a large majority give their country a positive rating, among Indians only 47 percent give India a positive rating, but only 10 percent give it a negative rating. [WorldPublicOpinion.org]
The moral of the story is for the rest of the world to get off the fence, Indians themselves should get off it first.
Update: DNA has an editorial on this survey and makes it argument for increasing ‘soft power’. Mistaking popularity for power in international relations is a common mistake. See this post from the archives on soft power, hard reality.