India’s urban youth have overall positive assessment of country’s foreign policy

The second iteration of India’s foreign policy survey report by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) examines how India’s urban youth perceive the structural changes underway in the world order as India celebrates its 75th year of Independence.

The survey found that India’s urban youth have an overall positive assessment of the country’s foreign policy, with 77 per cent of the respondents expressing confidence in New Delhi’s conduct of its external relations.

As many as 43 per cent of the respondents named Russia as India’s most reliable partner since Independence, followed by the United States at 27 per cent.

Yet, 83 per cent agreed that US support is extremely important for India to rise as a global power in the 21st century. More than 85 per cent of the respondents were of the view that the US will most likely be India’s leading partner in the next 10 years.

More than seven of every 10 respondents agreed that China poses a challenge to India’s rise.

As many as 49 per cent believed that should US-China tensions escalate, India should remain neutral. In comparison, the 2021 survey saw 61 per cent of the respondents say that India should side with the US.

Of India’s most pressing security challenges, 90% of the respondents were concerned by the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the 2021 survey, the top concerns were pandemics, terrorism, border conflicts with China, and Pakistan.

The ORF Foreign Policy Survey 2022: India @75 and the World is a new survey report by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Following the first foreign policy survey released in 2021, , the second iteration aims to gauge the shift, if any, in how India’s urban youth view the country’s foreign relations, and their aspirations about the role India should play in the future.

As India prepares to assume the G20 Presidency this year, there is an opportunity to re-evaluate and work on adapting to the realities of a post-pandemic world, facilitating discourse on policy responses towards sustainable growth.

The new ORF study, which surveyed 5000 urban youth across 19 cities in India, aims to analyse how the youth of India perceive the dynamic world we live in – and the role India can, and does, play in shaping it.

As many as 77 per cent of the respondents rated India’s foreign policy positively. This is an increase from the 2021 survey report, which saw a positive response from 72 per cent.

According to the survey, 90 per cent agreed that the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is India’s biggest security challenge, while 84 per cent noted climate change as the biggest non-traditional security threat to India.

As many as 34 per cent of the respondents believe that multilateralism should be India’s preferred mode of engagement with the world. A total of 26 per cent ranked the grouping of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa) as the most beneficial forum for India’s global goals. Of other forums listed in the survey (i.e., Quad, BIMSTEC, G20, and SCO), the G20 was noted by 9 per cent of the respondents. The SCO got the lowest rank at 6 per cent.

With the upcoming Indian Presidency of the G20, the low awareness regarding the forum necessitates concerted efforts by policymakers to explain the potential of the grouping as a multilateral platform where India can share its global objectives and goals.

The survey also found that 68 per cent of the respondents said that they support India’s diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal in August 2021. Only 5 per cent of the respondents were strongly opposed to India’s Afghanistan policy.

As India forges its path in global affairs, the views of its youth could help guide the country’s conduct as an emerging power. This survey, and its past and future iterations, can serve as an important reference point for carrying out research on both the theoretical aspects of Indian foreign policy, and its practice, and could serve as the key to decoding India @75.

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