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Most Indians have positive view of US: survey

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-06-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Indians take a positive view of the US role in the Indo-Pacific, more than even some of America’s allies in the region, according to a survey by a group of regional think tanks.

The survey on US role in the region—comprising India, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and Indonesia—was conducted by the Asian Research Network, which includes the Indian chapter of the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

As per the survey, Indians “are extremely positive and optimistic about the US” with “52% thinking that the US does more good than harm.” The figure for Australia, Japan and South Korea was only 18-36%.

Only 32% Indians said they preferred going to the US to study, according to the survey

Another 52% Indians think that the US “has more influence than 10 years ago.” But only 32% Indians said they preferred going to the US to study. Coming as the survey did in the aftermath of attacks on Indians and Indian origin Americans seen triggered by Trump’s anti-immigration stance, this did not seem surprising, said Dhruva Jaishankar, foreign policy fellow at Brookings India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit Washington on 25-26 June for formal talks with US President Donald Trump during the course of an “official visit.”

According to people in countries like Australia, South Korea and Japan, the number of people who seemed to think the US has more influence today than a decade ago ranged between 19-32%.

Some 61% Indians were of the opinion that the best years of the US were ahead of it while 53% wanted an increased US military presence in Asia. A little more than 71% Indians also said that the US will have a positive impact in next five years with Trump at the helm.

Some 65% Indians surveyed said that the US has a “positive impact” on India, 70% Indians were supportive of trade with the US, 71% were supportive of US investment in infrastructure while 78% Indians were of the view that the US and India already have a defence alliance.

Some 61% Indians were of the opinion that the best years of the US were ahead of it while 53% wanted an increased US military presence in Asia

For 37% Indians who took the survey, the US remains primary rule-setter with more than half of those or 53% of those surveyed saying the US is India’s closest international partner. Another 53% Indians said China was the US’s biggest challenge.

On China, Indians were “wary but relatively unaffected by China,” revealed the findings of the survey. Almost half of those Indians surveyed said “China does more harm than good” with 38% expressing negative views of trade with China. India has a burgeoning trade deficit with China despite a high volume of bilateral trade. According to a PTI report from Beijing, India’s trade deficit with China mounted to $46.56 billion in 2015-16 with bilateral trade almost touching $71 billion.

The coming meeting between Modi and Trump will be the first since Trump took office on 20 January.

Ties between the two countries are much warmer now than in the decades of the Cold War when India and the US were seen as on opposite sides—with India perceived on the side of the former Soviet Union and the US viewed as tilting towards Pakistan.

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A sign of the warmth in ties has been the four US presidential visits to India since the year 2000—nearly equal to the number of US presidential visits in the decades following India’s independence in 1947. The US is now a key source of defence hardware for India with New Delhi designated as Washington’s “major defence partner”.

One of the major turning points in the relationship was the signing of the 2008 civil nuclear cooperation pact between India and the US which overturned 34 years of US and international embargos against India sourcing technology and equipment to build up its civil nuclear power industry.

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