US most trusted power, China most distrusted: Survey of young Indians

Government’s decision to ban Chinese apps had the approval of 86 per cent of young people, Balakot air strike got the nod of about 68 per cent of the group. 74 per cent favoured crackdown on illegal immigration

India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State: Young people wanted India to abandon the idea of non-alignment and join hands with the US to counter China

An overwhelming eighty per cent of young people in India who participated in a recent survey believed the government should focus on improving the economy of the country. The pandemic is also a major cause of concern for young people in the country, who seem to be also highly troubled by terrorism, which they view as one of the top key foreign policy challenges.

These are some of the findings from a new survey by the Delhi-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation. Two thousand young people in the age group of 18-35 years from 14 cities were interviewed for this survey released by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla on Independence Day.

The purpose of the survey is to get an understanding about the foreign policy issues that matter most for young Indians and to get a grip on which areas young people want the government to focus their attention on. There are not many studies on the views of young people in India on foreign policy, said media reports.

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The ORF website meanwhile stated that the survey is meant to evaluate the views of India’s urban youth on the government’s foreign policy, their assessment of emerging foreign policy challenges and India’s ties with regional and global powers.

The top foreign policy concerns that seem to dominate the minds of Indian youth are the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism, cyber-security and the Ladakh stand-off with China, said a Times of India report quoting the survey results. Nearly half the youth surveyed also wanted the government to tackle climate change as a major priority.

Border conflicts with China are a big concern for nearly 52 per cent of young people as compared to 49 per cent worried about border conflicts with Pakistan. However, they don’t believe the government should give priority to resolving differences with China or Pakistan over setting the economy right (80 per cent), fighting terrorism (73 per cent) or even improving ties with the US (56 per cent). Building bridges and settling differences with China and Pakistan are not so much a priority for young Indians.

According to the TOI report, 68 per cent of the respondents regarded Sri Lanka as India’s most trusted neighbour. Though, India’s relations with Sri Lanka are no longer as trust-worthy after China opened a front against India through Sri Lanka and also due to the omnipresent issue of the Tamils on the island. Bhutan, which is India’s staunchest ally, comes a distant third and is lower than Nepal. Pakistan comes at the lowest with a 10 per cent trust rankings.

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Over 77 per cent of the young people surveyed seem to be rooting for the USA as the most trusted global power, a similar 77 per cent distrusted China the most. But, who will partner India in the years ahead? It was Quad, Russia and Europe in that order, added the TOI report. Young people also supported the government’s decision on Quad.

Young people’s nod to Indian government’s decisions

Interestingly, by and large, young people seem to be in sync with the Modi’s government’s decisions. The government’s decision to ban Chinese apps had the approval of 86 per cent of the young people interviewed, Balakot air strike got the nod of about 68 per cent of the group, while the topic of India throwing its weight behind the Quad too was welcomed by 68 per cent.

What may play a role in political decisions in the future is that 74 per cent of the young people favour the government’s decision to crackdown on illegal immigration.

No to China

Young people however advocated that India should abandon the idea of non-alignment and join hands with the USA in the eventuality of rising Indo-China tensions. The respondents were anxious about Chinese military and economic superiority and its interference in India’s neighbourhood. They fear war would break out between India and China.

Though young people had ideas about India’s permanent membership of the UNSC, and knew about the World Trade organisation, nearly two-thirds were clueless about the non-aligned movement.

The TOI quoted the study to state that there is also low awareness about more recent platforms and forums such as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), SAARC, Group of 20 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

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