Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: India on the World Stage

Wednesday 06th September 2023 06:07 EDT

As two Hindu Heads of Government ready to meet at the G20, (as the BBC put it), let’s look at India’s perception on the world stage. Can you imagine when Mahatma Gandhi met the King, or when Churchill called Gandhiji a half-naked fakir, that a Hindu would be Head of Government in the United Kingdom. What if the Mahatma had whispered that in the King’s ear?

The article from Pew Research Center, titled "Views of India Lean Positive Across 23 Countries," delves into the international perception of India and its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The report is based on surveys conducted in 23 countries across various continents, including North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. It reveals that a median of 46% of adults hold a favourable view of India, while 34% have unfavourable views. Narendra Modi's international reputation is more mixed, with 37% expressing confidence in him and 40% lacking confidence. The report also highlights that Indians are more optimistic about their country's rising global influence compared to other nations.

The Modi Paradox: Why is there such a stark contrast between Narendra Modi's domestic popularity and his mixed international reputation?

Global Perception vs. Self-Perception: What factors contribute to the discrepancy between how Indians view their country's global influence and how the rest of the world sees it?

The European Downturn: Why have favourable views of India declined significantly in European countries, and what implications does this have for India's foreign policy?

A Scholarly Perspective on India's Global Perception

Ah, the enigma that is India—a nation of profound complexities and paradoxes, a land where ancient traditions coalesce with burgeoning technological advancements. The recent Pew Research Center's report provides a fascinating lens through which one can scrutinize the global perceptions of this South Asian behemoth. Allow me to elucidate.

Firstly, the report reveals a rather intriguing dichotomy: while Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys a robust approval rating domestically, his international reputation is, shall we say, less unanimous. This bifurcation is not merely a statistical anomaly but a reflection of the intricate tapestry of geopolitics and domestic policy. Modi's domestic agenda, which resonates with a significant portion of the Indian populace, may not necessarily align with international norms or expectations, thereby leading to this schism in perception.

Secondly, the report underscores a palpable sense of optimism among Indians regarding their nation's ascendancy on the global stage. Approximately seven-in-ten Indians believe their country's influence is waxing—a stark contrast to the more tepid assessments from other nations. This divergence can be attributed to a myriad of factors, including but not limited to, nationalistic fervour, economic growth, and perhaps a touch of hubris. It raises the question: is India's self-perception inflated, or is the world yet to catch up with India's actual capabilities?

Lastly, the report unveils a disconcerting trend among European nations, where favourable views of India have waned over the years. This decline is particularly pronounced in France, where favourable opinions have plummeted from 70% in 2008 to a mere 39% today. Such a downturn necessitates a revaluation of India's diplomatic strategies in Europe, especially in an era where alliances are increasingly fluid.

In conclusion, India's perception on the world stage is a complex amalgam of admiration, scepticism, and indifference. As India continues to carve out its role in the global arena, it must navigate these multifaceted perceptions with sagacity and diplomatic finesse. After all, in the grand theater of international relations, perception often shapes reality.

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