India's Leadership Unknown to Much of World: Gallup Poll

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Dec 1 (IANS) As India seeks to cement its place as a world leader with its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Gallup surveys find India's leadership has work to do on its global image. Its leadership remains unknown to large parts of the world.

Nearly half of the world's residents surveyed (44 percent) don't know enough about the country's leadership to have an opinion and the rest are mixed, the leading US public opinion research group reported Tuesday.

Across 110 countries surveyed in 2009, a median of 22 percent approve and a median of 27 percent disapprove. More than half of people in the former Soviet Union, the Americas, and Europe don't have an opinion about India's leadership, the poll found.

This may be understandable given their proximity to the country, but many in Asia also don't have an opinion, Gallup said.

Overall, residents in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa region are more likely to express opinions about India's leadership. Outside of some of its immediate neighbors such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, India's leadership is relatively unknown, the poll found.

However, many of those in the region who have an opinion-including those in other G20 economies-tend to approve rather than disapprove, which may be conducive for India as it seeks to expand economic and strategic partnerships, particularly in Afghanistan and East Asia, it said.

India's challenge is a given in Pakistan, where the two-thirds who disapprove of India's leadership bespeak frosty relations and historical rivalry, Gallup said.

But India's leadership also faces challenges in other places where those who disapprove outnumber those who approve such as in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

The high percentages in these countries with no opinion, however, may be a positive for India; some people's views may still be malleable.

Key challenges likely remain, however, in some of the region's larger economies such as fellow G20 member South Africa, where a majority (59 percent) disapprove of India's leadership.

During his trip to India earlier this month, US President Barack Obama described India as a "key actor on the world stage," and as a country that has already emerged.

Gallup surveys show the key actor remains a relative unknown in much of the world-which is partially attributable to its relatively quiet, soft power approach-but that may have to change if the country wishes to widen its influence.

"This relative anonymity and soft opinion, however, does offer India a unique advantage-it means its image is still its own to mold," Gallup said.


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