Afghans, however, think highly of India

But India has to live up to its popularity

So here are some results from a survey conducted by ABC News between late December 2008 and early January 2009: “a random national sample” of 1534 adult Afghans across the 34 provinces were asked a number of questions in face-to-face interviews. India, it turns out, is big in Afghanistan. Almost three in four Afghans had a favourable impression of India, making it the most popular country in Afghanistan, bar none.

Big in Afghanistan
Big in Afghanistan

When asked for their opinion of the role countries were playing in Afghanistan at this time, India still comes out on top. Although the United States has the highest proportion of positive ratings (44%) it also has a large proportion of negative rating (36%). India ranks slightly lower (41%) in terms of positive perceptions, but only 10% of the Afghans polled thought it was playing a negative role. This is explicable, because Indian troops are not engaged in counter-insurgency operations, unlike the Americans.

The favourable perception of India outweighs the positive opinion of the role it is playing in Afghanistan. Some of that might be due to distance, and as the surveyors suggest, due to sympathy for fellow sufferers of Pakistani machinations. But India’s role is helping maintain India’s popularity. Still there is an equal proportion of Afghans (42%) who are neutral about India’s role. This gap probably suggests to them that India could do better. As indeed, it could.

Related Links: Holding steady; the road that India built; contributing to Afghanistan’s development; and concerning pomegranates

23 thoughts on “Afghans, however, think highly of India”

  1. Nitin, the whole analysis hinges on the assumption that the numbers are sacrosanct. Not much is given about the sampling methodology though. Just saying that it is a “random national sample” does not indicate that there is no sampling bias. The abc news site does not talk about this.

  2. Highly generalized statements like “Afghans, however, think highly of India” is ludicrous and should be avoided. Especially in a war torn, jihad-embedded, rugged-terrain, impossible-to-reach, God-damned country like Afghanistan. The average Afghan is (almost) a cave dweller living in some pasthun mountainous region with hardly any knowledge of India. This so-called survey hardly met anyone of the “real” afghans. Instead, they met some high profile Karzai-supporter and declaring it as a statistic. Its true that supporters of northern alliance are generally pro-India. It is also true that many Afghans love Bollywood. But, then please don’t start adding 2+2=4.
    That said, it is true that many in the Afghan political class appreciate India’s presence only to the extent it helps them keep the good taliban/bad taliban (I don’t know the difference, I keep hearing these terms now-a-days) away. Ditto for Indian help in constructions of roads, building of electricity grids, schools, supply of relief materials, etc

  3. Well, I am not surprised India doesn’t have much by way of negative ratings. Not bombing, invading, backing oppressive fundamentalists thugs or propping up govts that legalise martial rape, obviously leads people to think that you aren’t that bad. Which to be fair we aren’t. When we choose to act responsibly and with some realisation that we are a major regional power that needs to set some standards, our interventions can be quite successful and well regarded.

  4. @bhavananda,

    At least the pollsters spoke to 1500 people in Afghanistan before making those conclusions.

    Dude you rock, because you could make a lot more conclusions without having to produce a shred of data.

  5. @Udayan: It seems that you do trust these polls and their speaking to 1500 Afghans. Good Luck! I don’t and hence my sarcastic comments, which seemingly didn’t please you. Those are mere opinions, and not necessarily conclusions. And, I don’t think I presented something that is not common knowledge and would require much data to back up?

    I didn’t claim that they never speak to anyone. All I said that it should not be *generalized*. Polls (and conclusions derived thereof) goes a long way in shaping public opinion. These kind of Bollywood lovers’ surveys across Pak lead many gullible Indians to similar generalizations like Pakistanis and Indians are the same people, same culture, etc. Much of that is falling apart now, isn’t it?
    PS – I grew up listening to such charades of same culture, etc till I met educated Pakistanis. It didn’t require subsequent terror attacks to realize that we are very, very different (for good or bad).

  6. @bhavananda,

    Nothing against you dude, but your argument is internally inconsistent.

    Why should your opinion be more credible than the survey? Opinions of 1500 Afghans, however imperfect, should have greater credence than that of one Indian (presumably), when it comes to what Aghans think.

    If you want to convince others, you need to provide proof, evidence, facts and analysis. Otherwise your arguments are simply not credible.

  7. Bhavananda,

    I hope you noticed the irony in your comments.

    If you didn’t it is this: you advise against generalisation based on the survey, but your own comments are filled with generalisations and presumptions. It is also this: you advise against adding 2+2=22 (that’s the phrase, because 2+2 is actually 4). Yet you bring in totally unrelated issues like Bollywood and Pakistan.

  8. Pradeep,

    Fair enough. The document says the sampling error is 2.5% and states that the sample was representative. So we can’t say more.

    But since we are not betting the house on it, nor are we using it to make policy decisions, I think we could take it at face value. Not least because it was conducted by third parties who are unlikely to have had reason to make India look good.

  9. The very positive view of India is certainly unexpected. India should further build on this to counter balance Pakistan’s bad influence.

    India is wealthy in scientific, academic and democratic institutions. We should leverage this and offer to train and build similar institutions for the Afghans.

    India should also invest in building institutions such as schools and hospitals to have long term positive impact on Afghan society,

  10. “This gap probably suggests to them that India could do better. As indeed, it could”

    I would suggest cricket diplomacy: Invite the Afghanistan cricket team to play 3 ODI’s with the Indian cricket team- Or maybe even matches with a mix of Indian and Afghan players on both sides, to make it a more even contest.

    Inexpensive, will generate a lot of international media hype, and be quite popular with most Afghans- a win-win, except maybe the Indian cricketers who would hate the additional work load 🙂

    India should obviously continue doing more “real” work to help the country- but who doesn’t like cheap brownie points.

  11. The number, which attracts my attention, is the 42%, who are neutral about India’s role. Similarly, a very high number of people are neutral about Iran and Russia.

    The fact that all these three have been involved in Afghanistan before (through the NA), but have stayed out of the current spotlight dominated by US and NATO activities, might explain this… But does this really signal a need for more active role from these three? Or is it inevitable, given the various political constraints, that we will continue to pursue our interests in the background largely unnoticed?

  12. @Udayan:
    I never said that my “opinion” is more solid than their “observations/data”. All I opined is that how much we should read into it, or how much we should generalize, given the limited reach of Karzai govt (and hence the survey). Plus, I believe blog comments should be crisp opinions and I’m averse to copy-pasting long articles. But let me copy-paste something that instantly comes to my mind – Policy paper 3018 in SAAG

    India has well responded to the civil duty by spending millions of dollars for re-construction of Afghanistan but it has nothing to show that the new incumbent took any firm step to change the Persian meaning of Hindu Kush. Taliban is still maintaining its base in this region and found operating in every province of Afghanistan. Hindu Kush, has emerged as ‘Jihadistan’, a state within the State of Afghanistan. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are still acknowledged as spiritual and political ‘Emirs’ by the natives in the region. They have influenced the locals to sever their relationship to the government “and also preach them to support jihad against the Americans and the government which they consider infidel”

    Is that a credible “proof, evidence, facts and analysis” to you? There are scores of such credible (or incredible) facts. But, it really upto you what you want to accept.

  13. @Nitin:
    “you advise against generalisation based on the survey, but your own comments are filled with generalisations and presumptions.”

    As I said to Udayan, these are merely my opinion. And, I came to such conclusion for myself after reading about Afghan-India. Frankly, there are lots of data/commentaries to suggest either way, so feel free to choose whats acceptable to you. To me, the average afghan knows little about India. And, anyone trained in statistics will tell you that these surveys of ~1000 people are hardly statistically relevant to sample a population of ~30mil.

    “It is also this: you advise against adding 2+2=22 (that’s the phrase, because 2+2 is actually 4).”
    Yes, you are right on that. My bad!

    “Yet you bring in totally unrelated issues like Bollywood and Pakistan.”
    These are examples. Bollywood, Pak may be irrelevant to this context, but I used it to illustrate my point why we should not generalize such surveys.

  14. Bhavananda,

    If average Indians can entertain a notion of Afghanistan without knowing much about the country, I guess Afghans can return the favour. How you perceive a country does not have to be based on experience, it can be based on hope or myth or suchlike. So what you say about Afghans not being familiar with India is irrelevant.

    Whether the survey is representative or not is a technical, objective question. Whether the SAAG analysis is accurate or not is a subjective question, unless it too is based on a more representative sample. All too often “experts” are proven wrong. I can’t see how Afghans can be blamed for harbouring the Taliban…

    I fully agree we should not generalise from surveys. I think we should absolutely not generalise based on non-surveys.

  15. @Nitin:
    “If average Indians can entertain a notion of Afghanistan without knowing much about the country, I guess Afghans can return the favour … So what you say about Afghans not being familiar with India is irrelevant.” – Sure they can, I’m just asking if the survey tells us what that opinion really is. But please know this, the access to information (based on which one can form an opinion) is *vastly different* for an Indian and an Afghan. So, I won’t be surprised if more Indians can imagine what Afghan *really* is in comparison to Afghans knowing about India.

    Unfortunately, you have a tendency to generalize – I gave the example of SAAG article as *one particular* evidence. If you really feel like it, I can fill up comment post with long articles from “nowhere” as evidence, but I really don’t like to do that. Because I know people are not going to take my word for it without individually reading about it. There are far more objective, incisive analysis, references, statements of military personnel from NATO and India, statements of “visitors” like foreign aid workers to diplomats, which are *not* surveys. Feel free to “absolutely not generalise based on non-surveys”, to use your line. I just feel inclined to agree otherwise.

    “All too often “experts” are proven wrong. ” – I can almost see one such expert 😉 (pun intended)

  16. Some points I would like to make, primarily addresses to Bhavananda. I am no expert on this matter but I feel one should read the report in detail in the pdf before coming to conclusions:

    a. The poll actually shows Karzai’s performance rating drop from 83% to 52% from 2005 to now. So the assumption that poll is based on some “high profile Karzai supporter” seems to be false.

    b. Look at the sample points. They cover all provinces of Afghanistan. Quoting from the pdf:
    This survey is ABC’s fourth in Afghanistan since 2005, part of its ongoing “Where Things Stand” series there and in Iraq. It was conducted in late December and early January via face-to-face interviews with a random national sample of 1,534 Afghan adults in all 34 of the country’s provinces,with field work by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research in Kabul.”

    And I believe it is possible to have a statistically relevant poll of 1534 assuming it is completely random in picking the candidates for surveys. American polls use a sample size of 1000 for a population of few hundred million.

  17. Bhavananda,

    More presumptions and unsubstantiated assertions in your comment. Please contemplate on what I’ve said in my earlier comments before jumping on the assertion wagon.

  18. While all this talk about the accuracy of numbers is all fine and good, what bothers me is the low standards of proof-reading at ABC News. “What Afghan’s think”? WTF is that apostrophe doing there?

    Avoid’s the use of needless’ apostrophe’s!!

  19. @Detroit Indian:
    “And I believe it is possible to have a statistically relevant poll of 1534 assuming it is completely random in picking the candidates for surveys. American polls use a sample size of 1000 for a population of few hundred million.”
    What applies to the US need not apply to Afghan and the difference lies in *access* to the entire population that is being represented, albeit randomly. For example, its easy to call up a 25 yr old woman in Alabama or 79 yr old in North Dakota (using phone or personal visit). Would the same apply in Afghan? Then how is it representative?
    Let me clarify with an example that comes to my mind. Say a survey was done in the yr. 1975 in India to survey the sexual freedom of women married under the age of 30. What are the chances that Indian women in 1975 would be come forward to discuss it? Few. What are the chances that women who actually come forward to talk would be of high social status (read liberated)? Quite high. So, such a poll could easily yield a ridiculously high value of say 80%. And, I don’t know if this is right or wrong, unless I know for sure that the sample size is not skewed.
    Now, you might say whats the relation (I’ve been asked this quite often – relevance). I’m merely using Indian social conservatism in 1975 (or current conditions of Afghan society) to give an example that a survey has no relevance unless there’s adequate proof that it accessed (albeit randomly) the entire populace (not just the rich & famous in 34 provinces). Statistics is a useful tool as long as it can be analyzed properly (just look at the jugglery that goes on with economic figures in Parliament). So, when I said Karzai supporters all “loosely” I meant were the non-Taliban, “creamy layer” of Afghan society who are more likely to be accessed than those in remote villages.

    PS – If its of any value, yes, I did read the entire report and briefly glanced the pdfs, figures before I commented. But I didn’t/don’t trust these surveys, probably because I’m into too much of Chomsky (manufacture of consent). Plus, I’ve a friend at NDTV 😉 but I sincerely wish good luck to all who would believe these surveys rather than “non-surveys”.

    @Nitin: Thanks for your adivce! 🙂

  20. Bhavananda makes idiotic non-points while being full of himself! I dont think we should have a pseudo-intelligent discussions with people who have the compelling urge to reply to every post as defensively as possible!

  21. @Nitin: Given that you have a moderation policy and that Chaturvedi’s comments did not get moderated, I take it that this comment does not qualify as a “Language that is deemed unsuitable for decent discussion will be expunged” – to use your statement, because it has been here for 2 days now.

    In case you didn’t notice, there are quite a few blogs, websites where people can have nationalist discussions where people differ with each other without hurling abuses at each other or making personal comments. Good luck to you and your blog!

  22. any way whoever may be those ppl…
    but its nice to see the positive comments abt India
    at the same time long red bars for pak…..!!
    that tells volumes abt reality…!!

Comments are closed.