Trouble signs? Only 22% approve of PM Modi’s Pakistan policy according to PEW survey

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More than three-fifth of Indians support use of military force to defeat the scourge of terrorism, according to a latest Pew Survey released which said that about half of the respondents disapprove of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pakistan policy. “With roughly half (52 per cent) the Indian public worried that ISIS poses a major threat to their country, about six-in-ten Indians (62 per cent) believe that overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world. Just 21 per cent say relying too much on such force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism,” said Pew Research Center in its report running into 40 pages.

While 68 per cent of the respondents feel that India is playing a more important role in the world than it was doing 10 years ago, the Pew Research Center in its annual survey, which was conducted among 2,464 respondents from April 7 to May 24, said half of the respondents disapprove of Modi’s management of India’s volatile relationship with Pakistan.

His Pakistan policy is approved by just 22 per cent, said the survey which was conducted in the months after the terrorist attack at the Pathankot Air Force base coming from across the border.

“Notably, however, more than half of BJP supporters (54 per cent) and a plurality of Congress party adherents (45 per cent) disapprove of the prime minister s handling of relations with Pakistan,” the report said.

In the handling of China, supporters of Modi s own party, the BJP, are more likely than adherents of the Congress party to favor his conduct of bilateral relations.

Pew said Indians are ready to support more defence spending.

Across party lines, more than six-in-ten (63 per cent) think the country should increase spending on national defence, just six per cent want to decrease it and 20 per cent want to keep it at current levels.

Notably, Indians who see China’s growing military power as a very serious problem are more likely than those who see China s growing military power as a less serious threat to favor increased military spending, it said.

According to Pew, the Indian public’s satisfaction with the direction of the country has increased 36 percentage points since 2013, the year before Modi took power.

The survey found that Indian public’s views on the economy have improved by 23 points. And belief that today’s children will be better off financially than their parents is up eight points.

The survey said that Modi continues to ride a wave of good feeling (81 per cent) about the way things are going in India, the state of the domestic economy and his own stewardship of the country. In 2015 Pew Survey, Modi’s approval rating was 87 per cent.

Modi’s favorable rating of 81 per cent is followed by that of Sonia Gandhi (67 per cent), Rahul Gandhi (63 per cent) and Arvind Kejriwal (50 per cent). Modi has the lowest unfavorability rating of 16 per cent followed by Arvind Kejriwal (27 per cent), Sonia Gandhi (31 per cent) and Rahul Gandhi (32 per cent). Like Modi, the ruling BJP has an approval rating of 80 per cent, followed by Indian National Congress (67 per cent) and Aam Admi Party (47 per cent).

About half or more of the public approves of Modi s handling of a range of domestic problems facing the country: helping the poor and dealing with unemployment (both 62 per cent), handling terrorism (61 per cent) and dealing with corruption (59 per cent).

And roughly half or more of Indians in the survey approve of Modi s leadership style: 56 per cent believe he cares about people like them, 51 per cent say he stands up for what he believes and 49 per cent say he brings people together and gets things done, Pew said.

Pew said Indians also favor toughness in dealing with the world. “Nevertheless, Indians give priority to issues at home. By more than two-to-one (53 per cent to 23 per cent) they believe that India should deal with its own problems and let other nations deal with theirs. This public preference for a focus on domestic issues reflects ongoing concerns about a range of issues: Roughly eight-in-ten Indians believe crime, corrupt officials, a lack of employment opportunities and terrorism are very big national problems,” Pew said.

Observing that only about a third (31 per cent) of the public expresses a favorable opinion of their emerging Asian rival, Pew said these positive views are down 10 percentage points in the past year, but unchanged from 2014.

“Another 36 per cent voice an unfavorable opinion and 32 per cent have no opinion. Large majorities say Beijing poses serious challenges for India. Seven-in-ten of those surveyed believe that China s economic impact on India is a serious problem, including 45 per cent who voice the view that it is very serious. Nearly half (48 per cent) of Indians think China s relationship with Pakistan poses a very serious problem for India,” Pew said.

Pew said eight-in-ten Indians believe their economy is doing well, up 16 points since 2014. And 35 per cent of Indians today say the economy is very good. People in the northern states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh express the most satisfaction (71 per cent) with the direction of the country. Those living in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the least satisfied (55 per cent).

Roughly four in-ten living in the north say the economy is doing very well (42 per cent), while people living in the western states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh (26 per cent) and in the south (30 per cent) are less likely than those in the north to believe the economy is performing very well.

People living in the eastern part of the country in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal are more confident (83 per cent) than those in the north (62 per cent) and west (70 per cent) about prospects for the next generation.

Crime (82 per cent), lack of employment (81 per cent), corrupt officials (80 per cent) and terrorism (78 per cent) are the top four national problem, according to the respondents surveyed by the Pew Poll.

On Modi s popularity, Pew said while he continues to have a favorable rating of 81 per cent, the share of Indians with a very favorable view of Modi is down 11 percentage points in the last year.

In both 2015 and 2016, Modi s lowest approval rating (53 per cent) was for his handling of communal relations. On India US relationship, more than half (54 per cent) of Indians approve of Modi’s dealings with Washington. Just 15 per cent disapprove, it said. “Notably, public approval of Modi s handling of America is down 12 percentage points since 2015 despite his having visited the US more than any other country during his premiership,” Pew said.

(With PTI inputs)

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