Obama, US, popular in India: poll

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : When US President Barack Obama travels to India next month, he will visit a country in which both he and the nation he leads are broadly popular, according to a new poll.

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More than seven-in-ten (73 percent) Indians have confidence in the American president, and about two-thirds (66 percent) express a favourable opinion of the United States, although this is down from 76 percent last year.

By contrast, only 51 percent rate Russia favourably, and even fewer feel this way about the European Union (36 percent) or China (34 percent).

Indians are also feeling positive about their own country’s role in world affairs and they are optimistic about its economic future, the Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes survey found.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receives extremely positive ratings (87 percent favourable), as do Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi (87 percent) and her son Rahul Gandhi (85 percent).

Indians express confident views about their country’s role in the international arena. Almost four-in-ten (38 percent) think India is already one of the world’s leading powers and roughly half (49 percent) say it will be one eventually. Only 8 percent believe it will never be a major power.

India has enjoyed impressive economic growth in recent years, and today nearly six-in-ten Indians (57 percent) say their nation’s economy is in good shape.

Among the 22 countries included in the spring 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey, only the Chinese and Brazilians are more satisfied with their economic situation.

Still, Indians believe their country faces a number of major challenges, including crime and corruption. And nearly two years after the deadly Mumbai attacks, 81 percent say terrorism is a very big problem.

Moreover, a plurality of Indians characterise Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group widely blamed for the Mumbai attacks, as the greatest threat facing their country.

One-third name Pakistan as the greatest threat – and overwhelmingly Indians believe there is a link between these two threats: 58 percent say the Pakistani government actively supports extremist groups like LeT, while another 21 percent think it at least tolerates them.

And if these groups were to conduct another terrorist attack against India, most would support military action against them in Pakistan, the Pew poll found.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])