Indians view US as biggest threat after China, survey shows

A survey of 1,000 respondents in India found that 22 per cent saw the US as the second-most significant security threat, ahead of Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON – Indians view the United States as the biggest military threat after China and place greater blame on Nato and Washington than on Russian President Vladimir Putin for his war in Ukraine, according to a new survey.

Some 43 per cent of the 1,000 respondents perceived China – with whom India has a long-lingering border dispute and has seen tensions flare again since 2020 – as the greatest threat, according to the survey by Morning Consult, a US-based global business intelligence company.

And 22 per cent saw the US as the second-most significant security threat, ahead of India’s historic arch-rival Pakistan, the survey showed. 

“While the world’s two largest democracies would seem to make for natural partners, especially given their mutual mistrust of China, Indians have strategic reasons to be wary of the world’s Western superpower,” according to Ms Sonnet Frisbie and Mr Scott Moskowitz, who oversaw the survey released on Tuesday.

“As tensions between Washington and Beijing increase, the Indian public may be worried about getting caught in the middle of a US-China conflict that destabilises regional security, putting India at risk.” 

The concerns reflected in the survey about the risks from Washington persist despite the South Asian nation’s closer partnership with the US, Australia, and Japan – or the Quad, a grouping of democracies formed to counter Beijing’s economic and military ambitions. 

India has remained neutral on the Russian war in Ukraine despite pressure from its Quad partners – refraining from United Nations censure votes, while urging a diplomatic solution to ease the food and fertilizer crunch triggered by the crisis. It has also continued to snap up cheap Russian oil.

The survey, conducted on Oct 14-15, found that 60 per cent of the respondents want the government to continue purchasing oil from Russia and 48 per cent of them said Russia should remain India’s preferred military equipment provider, compared to 44 per cent for the US.

Some 49 per cent also want Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to continue military exercises with the country.

More Indians blame the US and Nato for the war in Ukraine because “historical ties with Russia formed during the Cold War and India’s post-independence period run deeper than India’s relatively new relationship with the US”, said Ms Shumita Deveshwar, senior director of India research at TS Lombard.

Russia as the main supplier of weapons and cheap oil to India is also “embedded in the mindset of the people, and that takes much longer to change”, she said. BLOOMBERG

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