|Why Indians love America
NEW DELHI - A recent survey
concerning India and the United States has set off
a debate here. Contrary to opinions in many other
countries, especially Muslim-majority ones, the
survey by the Washington-based Pew Global
Attitudes Project states that America's image is
the best in India.
"Fully 71% in India
express a positive opinion of the United States,
compared with 54% three years ago," the survey
says. Favorable opinion of the US in India was
higher than any of the countries surveyed,
including Canada (where it declined from 72% three
years ago to 59%) and the United Kingdom, where it
dipped considerably from 75% to 55%. Indians also
had the most favorable opinion of the American
people - 71% compared to 70% in Britain, 66% in
Canada, 65% in Germany, 64% in France, 61% in
Russia and 43% in China. The survey was conducted
among 17,000 people in the US and 15 other
countries from April 20 to May 31.
healthy majority of Indians view Americans as
"inventive" (86%), "hard-working" (81%) and
"honest". Fewer than half associate the negative
traits "greedy" (43%), "violent" (39%), "immoral"
(33%) and "rude" (27%) with Americans.
Indians, however, echoed similar
sentiments that at least one more country should
check US military might. In India, 81% want a
rival to US, compared to 74% in China and Russia.
There was also dwindling support in India for the
US-led "war on terror" (52%) , as well as the
invasion of Iraq.
Though the survey was
released in the second half of June, discussions
continue to range about why Indians view America
in such high regard, and better that what the rest
of the world thinks. Some of the logic is rooted
in the socio-economic interactions between the two
Ethnic Indians in the US number a healthy 2
million, creating a conservative constituency of
over 10 million friends and relatives back home
who have a direct stake due to the benefits
flowing from the US, such as in money sent "home".
It helps matters that Indians in America
are doing quite well for themselves, raising
aspirations. A study titled, "We the People: Asian
Americans in the United States", released by the
US Census Bureau, confirms that Indians are the
best-educated, highest-earning, youngest and most
likely white-collar workers among all major ethnic
groups in the US, including native-born Americans.
They are also among the top earners. Indian men
had the highest year-round full-time median
earnings ($51,900), more than the Japanese
($50,900) and well ahead of the national average
($37,057) and the Asian average ($40,650).
Overall, the Japanese have the highest median
family income ($70,849) followed closely by
Indians ($70,708). Both were way ahead of the
national average of $50,046.
Outsourcing: To add to the economic
benefits is India's BPO outsourcing industry,
which is growing courtesy of the US economy.
Despite a virulent anti-outsourcing campaign in
the US, a couple of daring financial frauds
orchestrated by Indian call center executives as
well numerous instances of abusive and racist
hate-calls, there is a lot at stake.
recent McKinsey report on the information
technology-enabled (IT) sector has revised the
previous global figure of US$17 billion to $21-24
billion by the year 2008, with India slated to
garner 25% of the offshore market, of which the US
is the largest source (60%). Estimates suggest
that 200,000 to 400,000 jobs, mostly for a young
international population, have moved from the US
since the outsourcing trend began in the 1990s.
The highest projection is by Forrester Research -
a loss of 3.3 million jobs by 2015, including 1.7
million back-office jobs and 473,000 IT jobs -
which will create a dent in the US job market of
140 million, and not the wreck everyone fears.
Apart from creating a section of the
Indian population that has directly benefited from
the US economy, there are other reasons for Indian
affinity towards America. It is to do with
culture, foreign policy, the command of the
English language and the American way of life.
Quest for excellence: India
until the 1990s was a different country. It
modeled itself on socialist Russia, its Cold War
ally since independence in 1947, where the
individual was subsumed by the might of the state
and bureaucracy. In the 1970s and 1980s, the only
way to breach the stranglehold of the state was to
move to the West or the Gulf countries, where
Indian entrepreneurs excelled. Doctors and
engineers were in demand in the West, but formed a
very small percentage of the youth who wanted to
break the shackles that forced everyone to conform
to an abstract higher good dictated by the
thoughts of Karl Marx and the rest.
many observers say, was a complete antithesis of
the way Indians are and have been for centuries.
Like Americans, Indians have done best when
allowed to excel in an uncluttered environment
where individual excellence is recognized. The
pursuit of high performance and efficiency, rooted
in liberal values and individual rights and
democratic principles, is where India and US stand
on similar ground.
The 1990s brought in
change, economic liberalization and a management
ethic. Giants such as General Electric and IBM set
up offices in India, and other symbols of American
gastronomy jumped in - Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Pizza
Hut, KFC and McDonald's have fed an army of Indian
great binder has been television, and similar
entertainment tastes due to the absence of a
language barrier. Just a decade back there were no
foreign channels in India, only boring
government-controlled television. Satellite
television has brought symbols of American life
into Indian homes, including kids grown up on MTV
lingo, Friends and HBO and who sound more American
than the Americans. CNN and Fox are staple
channels. They follow Christiane Amanpour in
Africa as much as a pregnant Britney Spears or a
heart-broken Jennifer Aniston. Mr and Mrs
Smith registered a good opening, while
Angelina Jolie is the woman most Indian men would
like to possess (Brad Pitt remains the perfect
hunk). Talk show host Jay Leno's jokes, including
his takes on the Michael Jackson trial, abound.
Foreign policy: One critical
aspect has also been American foreign policy in
the past few years. Despite the revelations of the
snide Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger remarks
against Indians in the early 1970s, there is a
growing realization in India that the US wants to
move beyond its Pakistan fixation of the past.
There is more sensitivity to India's fight against
terrorism. The tag of being the big bully of the
world and the criticism of the invasion of Iraq
remains. But Indians, too, now see foreign policy
as such - an instrument through which a country
should further and secure its own benefits. This
has been the one basic tenet of American foreign
policy for a long time, and one which now brings
the two countries closer.
Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist.
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