Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New poll finds Australia well liked in India - Prof. Mattoo's take on the poll in this ABC Radio National interview

The spate of violent attacks on Indian students in 2009 and 2010 greatly affected Australia's reputation in India at the time.
Since then, efforts have been made by government, tourist and cultural bodies to repair the damage, and some new research appears to show it's having an effect.
The India-Australia Poll, a collaboration between the Lowy Institute and the Australia-India Institute, surveyed over 1200 Indian adults and found that despite bad press over student issues, Australia is well liked in India.

Prof. Mattoo speaks to ABC Radio National's Fran Kelly about the crucial findings of this ground breaking poll. To listen in, click on the link below:

It’s not that complicated, mate

What do Indians think of the world outside their borders? How safe do they feel? How seriously do they take the challenges from the neighbourhood and beyond, especially from China and Pakistan?
Late last year, The Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Australia-India Institute commissioned one of the most comprehensive surveys of Indian public opinion on key foreign policy issues and critical challenges of governance. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1,233 adults, and questions asked in seven languages in cities, towns and villages throughout most of India and at all levels of society.
Today we are releasing, in Sydney, the first part of those findings, relating to how Indians view Australia. On May 20, we will release, in New Delhi, the rest of the startling findings of this ground-breaking poll.
Getting over past
The most important message from today’s initial poll results is that the Australia-India relationship is an idea whose time has arrived. That there was strong convergence of values and interests between the two countries had been intuitively obvious, but the bad press that Australia received over student safety and Canberra’s refusal to export uranium to India (a decision now overturned) had strained ties.
That chapter seems almost over, but there is no room for complacency. Findings of the poll suggest that Canberra and New Delhi need to continue investing in the relationship, especially in correcting popular perceptions amongst Indians about how they are treated in Australia.
Overall, the survey reveals strongly positive perceptions of Australia in India. Indians ranked Australia in the top four nations towards which they feel most warmly. Only the United States, Japan and Singapore ranked more highly. Today, Indians feel warmer towards Australia than towards countries in Europe, including Britain or India’s fellow so-called BRICS.
No less importantly, Australia is seen as a country that functions well and is worth emulating. Sixty per cent of Indians think it would be better if India’s government and society worked more like Australia’s. Japan and Singapore rank roughly equal to Australia. Only the United States ranks better at 78 per cent. Other countries, including Britain, China and Germany, do not fare as well as governance models for India.
A majority of Indians also see many good qualities in Australia and appreciate Australian values. This suggests some reassuring resilience to Australia’s reputation based on its core strengths as a developed, democratic, multicultural and egalitarian nation.
But it would be a grave mistake for the Australian and indeed the Indian Government to interpret these results as reason to relax about the bilateral relationship. For the poll also shows lingering concerns about the kind of welcome Indians receive Down Under.
Most disturbingly, 61 per cent of Indians still think the attacks against their countrymen here in 2009 and 2010 were driven mainly by racism — even though it’s likely this was an element in only a small proportion of those crimes. Sixty-two per cent still consider Australia a dangerous place for Indian students, although 53 per cent say it is safer than it was a few years ago, and 49 per cent regard Australia as generally a safe country.
Trade links
Of course, there is much to celebrate. Relations between India and Australia have deepened dramatically over the past decade. India’s economic growth and its burgeoning demand for energy, resources and education have propelled India to become Australia’s fourth-largest export market.
People of Indian origin have become one of its largest migrant communities. Both governments have stressed common security interests and now recognise a shared Indo-Pacific destiny.
And Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s hard-fought victory in December 2011 reversing Labour’s uranium ban has removed a barrier of mistrust. Incidentally, 70 per cent Indians think selling uranium is important to Australia’s relations with India, while only five per cent think it is not important.
There is bipartisan Australian support for engaging India. The Liberal Party, under Tony Abbott, is committed to pursuing an even more robust relationship.
The poll data suggests a healthy pragmatism among Indians, as well as respect for a fellow democracy, which Australia and India ought to harness. More than half of Indians believe Australia is a good place to live and to get work. About the same proportion see Australia as a country well-disposed to India; while 59 per cent agree that the two countries have similar national security interests and 56 per cent go a step further to agree we could be good security partners in the Indian Ocean.
And ordinary Indians seem to understand that Australia is becoming indispensable for their country’s development: 60 per cent see Australia as a good supplier of energy and other resources, 57 per cent think it supplies good agricultural produce, and 61 per cent agree it is a country known for excellence in science.
But there remains work to be done is in correcting Indian perceptions about what Australians think of them. Indians are divided on this front: 51 per cent agree that Australia is a country with welcoming people, while 26 per cent disagree. Indians from large cities are more positive, with 71 per cent agreeing that Australia is a country with welcoming people.
One promising discovery is that young and urban Indians tend to be more positive about Australia, and in a nation with more than 600 million people under the age of 25, that remains an enormous opportunity.
With this poll, there is now a measurable scorecard to help political leaders and diplomats in New Delhi and Canberra, along with universities, business and civil society keep lifting their game in a crucial bilateral relationship.
 - Co authored with Rory Medcalf

(Source: The Hindu)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

India beyond the clichés: we've got some catching up to do

As Canberra begins to translate its vision of “Australia in the Asian Century” into reality, it is reassuring that a renewed focus on the continent has bipartisan support. Last week, the government announced its implementation plan to act on the recommendations of the White Paper released by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in October 2012.

While the Significant Investor Visa Scheme has attracted some controversy, the plan is – for the most part – thoughtful. For instance, the AsiaBound grants program and the proposal to further assist university students wanting to study in Asia, as well as the Asian Century Business Engagement Plan to assist businesses to “harness the opportunities emerging in the region” are commendable initiatives.

Earlier, on March 22, the Menzies Research Centre hosted a policy roundtable at Parliament House, Canberra, on the Coalition's proposed New Colombo Plan. This plan is, inter alia, an ambitious initiative to encourage Australian students to undertake study in universities in the Asia-Pacific region.

On the occasion of the round-table  the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, signalled an unusual consensus on the new engagement with Asia, even in these otherwise Manichean political times: “[S]o much that happens in this building is fierce and partisan. So much that happens in this building is all about the large egos of the people who strut and fret their hour upon the stage but hopefully what we do today is about the 'better angels of our nature', it is about things that will make a lasting difference to our country and our world.”

These initiatives are undoubtedly encouraging and do suggest that no matter who is in government in September, Asia will firmly remain at the centre of the policy radar screen. What is critical, however, is to recognise that the real promise of the Asian Century will be realised only if Australia shows patience and a readiness to provide the substantial budgetary support necessary to build the capability to engage with the main protagonists of the Asian century.

This is particularly true of India: the world's largest democracy and federation; the third largest global economy (by gross domestic product in purchasing power parity terms) with a growing and almost insatiable appetite for natural resources; home to over a billion people with the largest pool of young human capital needing to be trained, skilled and educated; one of the biggest markets across segments and a hub of research and “frugal” innovation; and yet continuing to be the land of the starkest contradictions and diversity on the planet.

Doing business with India, political or economic, eludes any quick fix or magic mantra (as Australian governments and businesses know only too well from present and past experience) and it requires, at the very least, a sustained and long-term commitment to creating a cadre of India specialists – in the public services, universities, in business and the workforce – who can interpret the country, work as a bridge to what should be one of the most important objectives for Australia in the Asian Century.

For make no mistake, Commonwealth, curry, cricket and the English language are red herrings. These commonalities will do little to help businesses, political leaders or even academics engage meaningfully with India.

Australia's understanding of India today, with all its complexities, is severely limited. Until about three decades ago, Australia could claim to be one of the principal centres in the world for the study of India, in various disciplines, and some of the most exciting work on India came from Australian universities. Australia would have already been India-capable if that had been sustained. That, however, did not happen as departments were closed and academics retrenched.

There are signs of a renaissance in Indian studies, particularly in Victoria. The Australia India Institute, funded by both Canberra and the state government and based at the University of Melbourne, is a concrete expression of this trend, with its teaching, research, public policy and outreach programs. Building an India-capable Australia requires more states, territories, businesses and universities to come together to forge new partnerships on India.

There are already some good examples. Victoria has developed a well thought out and nuanced strategy of long-term engagement with India; it has provided doctoral scholarships to the best and brightest of Indian students; its annual trade missions expose Victorian businesses to the opportunities India offers; it convenes an annual roundtable of vice-chancellors from India and the state to promote research collaboration; it has partnered the University of Melbourne in sponsoring a professorial chair in contemporary Indian studies; and, together with the federal government, it has provided significant support to the Australia India Institute. This model of partnership must cut across states and territories if we are to create an India-capable Australia.

In a recent interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industry, the vice- president of the ruling Congress party, and a likely candidate for the prime ministership, Rahul Gandhi, described India as resembling a “beehive”; complex, decentralised, noisy but bustling with energy and determination. The world – he suggested – expects simple answers from India, which will never happen.

But India, he argued, is a training ground of tomorrow's complex networked world. Anyone who succeeds there will acquire a competitive advantage because the business practices that emerge from the complexities of India will have a global robustness.

This is the Indian reality that Australia has to cope with in the Asian century, and it demands a systematic, long-term investment. “India”, one of Australia's most formidable diplomats once said, “tests your patience”. But as he wisely concluded, “it always rewards the patient”.

(Source: The Canberra Times)