India’s public opinion turning away from China toward US, poll shows

India’s youths increasingly favor the United States over China as relations between the two Asian giants remain tense, a new poll shows.

Young people in India’s urban population centers were largely satisfied with the country’s international relations, including its deep ties with Russia and its geostrategic partnership with the U.S., according to the survey published on Monday by the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank in New Delhi.

ORF’s annual foreign policy poll for 2023 was conducted from August 7 to September 15 last year with the help of marketing firm Impetus Research. It surveyed 5,000 respondents aged 18-35 across 19 cities, offering a glimpse into the perspectives of India’s younger demographic on global affairs.

The survey found 81 percent of respondents viewed the bilateral relationship with the U.S. as positive, marking it as the country’s most favored partnership. The findings appeared consistent with New Delhi’s new strategic alignment with Washington, and with the mutual interests—and shared concerns about Beijing—that define the relationship.

The poll also highlighted lingering skepticism toward China, with a sizable portion of India’s youths still wary of their neighbor to the north, especially in the wake of the deadly border clashes in the Himalayas in 2020, said ORF report, which found 84 percent of respondents viewed border conflicts with China as a “significant challenge”

The confrontation in the Galwan Valley, where 20 Indian troops and at least four Chinese soldiers died, has “severely reduced their trust in China,” according to 80 percent of respondents, although 58 percent still advocated for increased economic engagement with Beijing.

Last June, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House for a state visit, during which the two sides signed landmark deals including the sale of U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper drones to India.

Should U.S.-China tensions escalate, 44 percent of respondents would want India to remain neutral, and another 44 percent would want their country to side with the U.S., the polling results showed. However, 85 percent of respondents believed the U.S. should support India should its tensions with China escalate.

Biden And Modi In New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden for the G20 Leaders’ Summit on September 9, 2023, in New Delhi, India. India’s public opinion is turning away from China toward the United…

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/WireImage

India’s foreign policy, particularly during its presidency of the Group of 20 last year, enjoyed broad support among the country’s youths, 83 percent of whom viewed Modi’s handling of foreign relations positively, according to the results.

In the coming decade, 81 percent of Indian youths said they expected the U.S. to be their country’s leading partner, above Russia at 77 percent, Australia at 77 percent and Japan at 76 percent. The U.S. also received the highest vote in 2022 at 85 percent, ORF said.

Despite majority approval of the India-Russia partnership, India’s younger generation expressed concerns about Moscow’s growing cooperation with China, with 76 percent of respondents expressing apprehension, up 8 percentage points from 2022.

This also was reflected in their preference for future defense partnerships—82 percent said India should look beyond Russia. As for the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, 80 percent of respondents favored neutrality from the Indian government.