WASHINGTON. Mark Twain and Max Mueller were captivated by India. Winston Churchill and Richard Nixon disdained her. In a far more complex 21st century environment, India continues to evoke mixed reactions across the world, although it is gradually increasing positive views from the international community even as it jostles for influence with key players such as United States and China.
A BBC World Service Country Rating Poll of 27 countries conducted with the University of Maryland shows India rated a 42% "mainly positive" view of its influence in 2010-2011, a 6% improvement over the previous year, with 29% "mainly negative". China rated 44-38 and the United States 49-31 in a poll that was topped by Germany 62-15, UK and Canada 57-12. The poll results released this week involved 28,619 citizens in major urban areas of 27 countries.
The broadly positive numbers for India masks a complex picture of country-by-country views that has ebbed and flowed with geo-political and economic developments. Of 27 countries polled, 17 lean positive towards India, four lean negative, and six are divided. Countries where there was a mainly negative view of India's influence include (not unexpectedly) Pakistan, and unexpectedly, Philippines, France and Spain. China and Australia were among the countries which are divided about India.
Although Americans and British still lean largely positive (56% and 50%, respectively), the poll showed their views of India's influence in world affairs have deteriorated over the past year, with negative ratings increasing sharply in both countries (29%, up 11 points in the US, 35%, up 19 points in the UK). The same trend is observed in Australia, where negative views are up 18 points compared to 2010, and Australian opinion shifted from being positive in 2010 to divided in 2011 (44% vs 45%).
Italy is the most favourable country towards India in Europe. More than six in ten (61%) lean positive, a 19-point rise since 2010. India also increased its positive views significantly in Turkey, South Korea and Nigeria. Even in China, the positive views of India went up from 29% in 2010 to 40% this year.
While most countries, including the United States and China, improved their positive view across the world, the three most negatively viewed countries saw their average ratings go from bad to worse, including Iran (59% negative, up 3 points since 2010), North Korea (55%, up 6 points), and Pakistan (56%, up 5 points).
Pakistan is having a particularly dismal time. Of the 27 countries polled in 2011, 23 lean negative towards Pakistan, three lean positive, and one is divided. Even China, Pakistan's much-vaunted ally, moved from being divided about Pakistan to leaning negative. While there was an increase in favorable ratings of seven points (37%), negative ratings grew by 13 points (47%).
A number of countries with clearly unfavorable leanings towards Pakistan have become even more negative, including the US (75%, up from 58%) and Australia (74%, up from 54%). Negative views of Pakistan in the United Kingdom jumped 24 points to 68%, and in Canada they increased by 18 points (67%). Turkey is the only country which has a positive view of Pakistan.
Views of the US continued their overall improvement in 2011, confirming the trend seen in 2010. Of the 27 countries surveyed, 18 hold positive views, seven hold negative views, and two are divided. In Asia, a majority of Chinese is now holding negative views (53%, up 9 points), and although views improved a bit in Pakistan, they are still largely negative overall (16% vs 46%).