In the 15-nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey, 56% of India's respondents approved of President Bush and expressed favorable opinion about the US. That's a sharp contrast to the way the rest of the world perceives the US. Due to the Iraq war and other issues like Guantanamo, Palestine and so forth, the image of the US has sharply fallen in most of the 15 countries polled. Is India going against the global trend?
The main reason for the US to have an image of a rogue state in the hearts and minds of the people in most countries is its warmongering. In India also, huge populations from various political and social spectrums, from the Left to the minorities, are seriously opposed to the hegemonic actions of the Bush administration. This was evident during Bush's visit to India this year. He was greeted by massive protests by hundreds of thousands of people across the country, not only in cities but also in rural areas.
The Pew poll was held among the relatively affluent people living in five large Indian cities. Obviously the results reflect the idiosyncrasies of the urban middle classes. The uninformed understanding about the nuclear deal between India and the US and a host of other factors contributed to the poll result. The poll indicates the existence of a large number of apathetic middle-class families in India who have accumulated substantial wealth under the liberalized economic regime. These classes wield greater influence over the state administrative elites who are committed to the idea of India acting as a junior partner to the US. They are ideologically oriented toward neoliberalism and have developed a strong consumerist consciousness. Many educated youngsters, selling their intellectual labor in call centers and IT industry for global corporations, like the American way of life, which means a consumerist society.
The Indian middle-class elites are intoxicated by the highly spirited sloganeering of the US leaders about India. US Ambassador to India David Campbell Mulford recently observed that India is "emerging as a major player on the world stage" and he reasoned that it has moved the US to have "a deep and productive relationship as India becomes a major world power" in the 21st century. President Bush during his visit to India described India and America as "global leaders." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn't hesitate to join this chorus. During his visit to Washington last year, he described India and the US as "natural partners in many ways." Mainstream media has given wide publicity to these unfounded statements. India's elites believe these slogans uncritically.
Like the other Third World elites, India's urban elites also wish to be "Americanized," with the neoliberal regime at the helm of affairs. When the elites talk and write about globalization, they in fact mean largely Americanization. This worship of America is an achievement of the propaganda apparati of the US, like their domestic success in making a huge number of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.
Since India embraced the global corporate capital by following the neoliberal policies, the marked changes in cultural attitudes were evident among the people. A recent high-profile case involved a son of a murdered politician, who was charged with drug use. It has highlighted the growth of decadent values among India's "thin upper crust." The penetration of foreign corporate media has aggravated the situation. The traditional values such as humanism, solidarity, concern for the poor, peace, friendship and anti-imperialism are all being replaced by sheer consumerism.
A heartening part of the Pew poll is that India's 56% approval of the US this year is lower than its 71% score last year. A large number of Indians support the corporate Empire, however, which tries hard to destroy the self-reliant industrial potential of India and penetrate Indian agriculture, ruining the farmers' lives. To the continuing phenomenon of farmers' suicides in many states of India, the state of Maharashtra has now added some 540 suicides of ruined cotton farmers. India has to be freed from Empire's grip. India's progressives have to be more active in arresting the pro-Empire sentiments among a section of the Indian population.
N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.
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