The United Progressive Alliance-2 government has got a nod from voters for its handling of relations with neighbouring countries. But the attitude of voters towards two immediate neighbours is a study in contrast. While Bangladesh ranks the highest among the countries Indians trust, Pakistan ranks the lowest.
>CNN IBN- The Hindu Election Tracker Survey , conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, has revealed that while 37 per cent of India’s voters feel that relations with neighbours have become better under UPA-2, only 19 per cent disagree with the proposition. 49 per cent college-educated respondents give a thumbs-up to the government, while 28 per cent in this category however do not think ties have improved.
High trust in Bangladesh
When asked which countries should India either trust a ‘great deal’ or ‘somewhat’, 48 per cent chose Bangladesh while 46 percent picked Russia.
Explaining the high trust in Dhaka, India’s former ambassador to Bangladesh and retired diplomat, Deb Mukharji, told The Hindu , “I think this is largely to do with developments in the past five years, where Bangladesh has addressed our security concerns very comprehensively whereas in previous regimes, trouble makers were given support.” Mr Mukharji said that public attitudes often do not take history into account, but rather go by ‘immediate impression and recent past’. He added, “I am speculating that this could also be a result of a sense of guilt because India has not delivered what India should have delivered on and reciprocated, be it on Teesta waters or the land boundary agreement.”
There is also a growing recognition that Bangladesh has performed well on social indicators. In their recent book, An Uncertain Glory, economists Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have noted that India has a lot to learn from Bangladesh in human development index.
Russia ranks a close second among partners India should have trust in. Anuradha Chenoy, professor at the School of International Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and a Russia expert, recounted that this trust had ‘wavered’ after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Sections of the middle class, and the strategic elite, begun having aspirations that they should only go with the US. But after ten years of the strategic partnership with US, and its attitudes on a range of issues, there is a renewed faith in old partners, in Russia, and in the South-South framework.” This, she added, did not mean a reversal to ‘Cold War politics’, but an ‘independent foreign policy’.
54 per cent of the respondents said India should have ‘no trust at all’ in Pakistan, while only 14 per cent said there should be a ‘great deal’ or some trust in the country. These findings come soon after a poll done by the Australia-India Institute and the Low Institute for International Policy, which said that 94 percent of Indians see Pakistan as a threat, while 78 per cent see it as a major threat. But their study also showed that 89 percent believe that ordinary people in both countries want peace.
China draws mixed response in CNN IBN-The Hindu Election Tracker Survey, in a reflection of the relationship of competition and co-operation New Delhi shares with Beijing. 33 per cent of the respondents felt India should have trust in China, while 31 per cent believed there should be ‘no trust at all’ in Beijing.