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New Delhi: Russia is India’s most reliable partner since the country gained independence in 1947, according to a survey by the New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) with 43 per cent of the respondents pitching for Moscow followed by 27 per cent who named the United States.

The national survey, conducted across 19 cities in India, covered a sample of 5000 urban youth. The young Indians rated the country’s foreign policy in a positive light and responded to a range of questions.

“The respondents named Russia as India’s most reliable partner since Independence (43 percent); the United States followed with 27 percent,” said the ORF Foreign Policy Survey 2022: India @75 and the World, authored by Harsh V Pant, Premesha Saha and others.

Since the start of the Ukraine conflict earlier this year, India’s bilateral ties with Russia have come under the scanner of the West for a surge in oil imports from the sanction-hit Moscow. The war in Ukraine which has continued for more than eight months has had a significant impact on global food security and has led to a sudden increase in crude prices.

“In February 2022 the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted, disturbing long-held norms of territorial integrity and sovereignty, and paving the way for a new form of total war: the weaponisation of everything. Ukraine’s supporters in the West have leveraged their dominance in the global financial system to inflict economic costs on Russia, while Moscow has weaponised food and energy exports to protect itself,” the survey said.

The authors said that New Delhi has had to skilfully navigate its relationship with Moscow while strengthening its ties with the United States and Europe.

This survey aimed to gather views about important aspects of the country’s foreign policy goals.

“Urban Indian youth rated the country’s foreign policy positively: 25 percent graded it very good, and 52 percent, good. This is an increase from the 2021 survey report where 32 percent said it was very good, and 40 percent rated it good,” the survey said.

The think tank also elicited views on multilateralism, UN reforms, India’s foreign policy vis-a-vis the neighbourhood and geopolitical tensions that may impact India’s future.

“One-third of respondents (34 percent) chose multilateralism as their preferred mode for India’s engagement with other countries, over minilateralism and bilateralism,” the survey said.

“Nearly 80 percent agreed that Indian foreign policy has adequately defined what constitutes the country’s ‘neighbourhood’. The respondents expressed trust for the country’s immediate neighbours, except for Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2021, respondents said they trusted the country’s immediate neighbours except for Pakistan,” it added.

The respondents said that the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is India’s most pressing security challenge. Terrorism, border conflicts with China and territorial disputes with Pakistan, were listed as other challenges.

“Of India’s most pressing security challenges, 90 percent of respondents were concerned about the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other challenges were terrorism (named by 86 percent of respondents); border conflicts with China (84 percent); and territorial disputes with Pakistan (82 percent),” the 84-page survey report said.

The survey said the international order is changing rapidly and the challenges are compounding for New Delhi.

“India at 75 is keen to show the world that it has the capacity for global leadership. Meanwhile, the international order that it inhabits is changing rapidly and the challenges are compounding for New Delhi, making it clear that the road to the global centre-stage will not be easy,” it said.

A majority of respondents said India’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council was an important foreign policy goal.

“When asked about India’s position should US-China tensions escalate, 49 percent believed India should be neutral. In the 2021 survey, 62 percent said India should side with the US,” ORF added.

This ORF survey was conducted in collaboration with Impetus Research.

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