Pre-GST PEW Survey could reinforce hawkish stand on Kashmir

SRINAGAR: If the PEW research findings are any pointer towards policymaking in Delhi, the society in Jammu and Kashmir, especially the government, will have to work overtime to ensure a perception shift. The survey finding by the American public charity, recently released, is supportive of a harsh military use in Kashmir and completely a negative attitude towards Pakistan, the immediate neighbour.

The survey with a thin universe of 2464 respondents carried out between February 21 and March 10, 2017, “favours an aggressive stance” on Jammu and Kashmir.

“A 63% majority believes the government should be using more military force,” the survey reveals. “Few say India should use less force or even the same amount as it is using now.”

On Pakistan, that is normally linked directly and indirectly, with the situation in Kashmir, PEW findings said the Indians are completely negative and it has increased in comparison to last year.

“More than six-in-ten (64%) in India have a very unfavourable view of Pakistan today, up from 55% last year,” the research said. “Disdain for Pakistan cuts across party lines – BJP and Congress party supporters express similar levels of negativity for India’s long time foreign rival (70% vs. 63% very unfavourable).”

Interestingly, however, the PEW researchers found the south Indian people living “far from the India-Pakistan border, are decidedly less negative” about Pakistan.

“Only 36% of those living in the south express a very unfavourable opinion of Pakistan, compared with 68% in the east, 69% in the north and 77% in the west. And in southern India 30% have a favourable view of Pakistan, versus just 6% in the north and east and 3% in the west,” the findings said.

What is more interesting is that PEW researchers found the more people seeing ISIS as their principle threat.

“Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Indians believe ISIS poses a major threat to their country, easily outstripping concern about all other international issues tested,” the research said. “Indian concerns about the Islamic militant group are up 14 percentage points since 2016. During the survey fielding period this spring, ISIS carried out its first attack in India, injuring 10 train passengers in Madhya Pradesh.”

Kashmir has not been so favourable to the ISIS but the TV coverage of black-flags with al-Qaeda logo seemingly has led to the creation of this perception. There might not be many fighters willing to join the outfit but the al-Qaeda flag hoisting in Srinagar are more frequent and more visible in the visual media. Incidentally, the bosses presiding over Kashmir’s security grid in a presser on Sunday ruled out the possibility of ISIS in Kashmir.

The outcome that has even surprised even the data-analysts is that US president Donald Trump was more popular in India, in comparison to most of the world.

Though half of the respondents had no opinion on Trump, those who had expressed themselves interestingly. “But among Indians who had an opinion, most said that Trump is a strong leader (42% overall) and well-qualified to be president (41%). Indians were split on whether the new American president is dangerous, arrogant and someone who cares about ordinary people. On balance, those responding to the question tend to believe Trump is neither charismatic (29% vs. 22%) nor intolerant (32% vs. 17%),” the research said.

“These assessments stand in stark contrast to the negative ratings Trump receives in much of the world. Across 37 countries, people were most likely to say they think of Trump as “arrogant” (a global median of 75%), “intolerant” (65%) and “dangerous” (62%).”

Interestingly, more Indians approve than disapprove of Trump’s plan to restrict immigration from select majority-Muslim countries (37% vs. 24%). “BJP supporters (41%) are more likely than Congress backers (22%) to favour this policy,” the survey suggests.

The survey that suggests Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more popular than the last year, however, has two negatives. Firstly, it has a narrow base that does not make even an iota of the humanity that lives in India. Secondly, it has carried out after demonetization but before the GST roll out. Most of the growth indices were evaluated in the third quarter of the current fiscal. (Kashmir Wire)

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