While we await the completion of a short story we’ve been brewing lately, we take a moment to stop, observe and crunch a few interesting numbers from Beijing and a few Pakistani cities. Read on for a fuller analysis.
Now, since a lot of you are itching for a flame war, we’ll start off with the Pakistani set first. And here’s the finer elements of the gnyaan that struck for its sheer insight:
Most Pakistanis think the best way to resolve the Kashmir issue is bilaterally
Bilateral negotiations, you’ll note, is GoI’s preferred way of conflict resolution, and this option being seen this high should count as a victory for India. That it’s fallen down slightly from 2003 shouldn’t be cause for concern at all; the difference falls within the error margins.
While most think that India will never “part with Kashmir” (I hate the emotional bias in that statement; I’d have preferred a much less emotive construct than that), there’s still a sizeable portion who believe that LoC can’t be made an international border. Minus “parting” with Kashmir, minus conversion of LoC, I can’t but help ask: how do you think we’ll ever solve the problem? A ready answer here as well: a 61% think it’ll never happen.
Interestingly enough, though, the younger generation is much more optimistic than the older ones; a consequence, we think, of spending significantly less time following the news than the older setSorry, the error margin being 3-4%, the difference again statistically insignificant.
What, then, does the average Pakistani see in India? Ayaz Amir has an interesting qualitative response to the question, but the numbers, again, caught us surprised: (this is statistically valid; difference > 4%) more people are impressed by India’s democracy than by Indian culture. Given the preponderance of Bollywood and Indian channels, you’d think it would have been the other way; we don’t know why this is the case, but we think it is, perhaps, because Bollywood isn’t really seen as an Indian-only thing anymore?
The fact that none of the figures for any item crosses 30% is also note-worthy; it appears that all our neighbours, with the exception of Bhutan and Sri Lanka, perhaps, somehow feel continue to feel intimidated by us. Wonder why, hmmm.
Most think there’s only a low-to-moderate chance of war with us. This isn’t Israel- Lebanon, or Israel- Palestine situation, and I really wish people comparing India- Pakistan with the Middle East would stop doing so after seeing this factoid.
Luckily, (or rather unluckily, if you’re a disfranchised Pakistani), I really don’t think the opinion of the man on Mall Road, Lahore, would count that much in bilateral negotiations. If anything, I believe these numbers indicate a certain success for Pakistan‘s PR machine; clearly, there’s a lot of overlap between official stance (“first solve the Kashmir issue”, “bilateral agreements”, “more people to people contact”), but we must remind ourselves that this comes within a certain idea vacuum within Pakistani debate-space; remove Musharaff and his government, and you’ll find no other real source for opinions.
This is, then, the real lesson of the numbers here; unlike in India or the US, there isn’t, we conclude, an ideological choice when it comes to policy-making in Pakistan. The Pakistani people have, however, paid out a certain penalty by not having more political options; while they are, apparently in the minority, those who disagree with the current government, they certainly don’t have any other power-sources to turn to and won’t able to influence the discourse in any meaningful way. Would be interesting to see, then, on how unified/ fragmented public opinion in India is as well; something tells me it’ll be a lot more fractured than it is in Pakistan.
I was more interested by the other set of numbers emerging from Beijing, though. Not just for my interest in Chinese people and their culture, which is, as many of you know, immense, but also because we so rarely hear about the opinion on the street. Indeed, given the novelty, the sheer size, and most importantly for us, the emerging global reach of the Chinese diaspora, we should be more interested in Beijing than in Islamabad. Again, true to form, we’re faced with a few curve-balls from the other side of the Himalayas:-
- We’re more spiritual, intelligent and intellectual than hard-working. Or at least, Beijing doesn’t see as hard-working as much as NYC and London do; clearly, the lack of interaction between the Indian and Chinese peoples is to be blamed here.
- Very few folks see us as corrupt or inefficient. (Heh, if only they knew!)
- They see us as competition, and are prepared to compete very hard (“better place to invest – 84%“, “India can’t rival China as a superpower – 64%”, “India shouldn’t be a permanent member of UNSC – 58%”, “India won’t overtake China economically – 82%”)
- Significantly more Chinese (57%) think that India will never disintegrate into smaller nations. Is there some sort of a transferrance of belief in governmental rigidity at play?
- And finally, more people are interested in historical monuments (meaning, would like to travel to India) and Bollywood, than in religion, spirituality or Indian food. The Indian restaurant business isn’t doing that well in Beijing, then.
Note that I’m using opinions from NYC and London as a sort of a control to measure against those from Beijing. Also note that while NYC and London more or less share the same ideas about India, Beijing seems to differ wildly in certain parts. I think this is a clear measure of people-to-people contact; the average Londoner agrees more, and hence, is more connected, with the average New Yorker, than is the average Beijing-er. That is, our earlier assumption that these figures could give us an insight into the global Chinese mind could possibly be wrong; the global Chinese might exist, but a Beijing-er is, perhaps, less of a global Chinese than a New Yorker or Londoner of Chinese descent.
In fact, that brings us to the really curious point about these numbers: how would they show up if we were to control for ex-pat Indians or Chinese? Meaning, how much of this opinion is because of globe-trotting Indians or Chinese, and how much is a result of digesting PR spin? That’s the bigger tale I’m interested in, here; how do people form opinions the most, by meeting people, or by reading/watching news? The answer could suddenly reveal a personal, Johnny-Appleseed-ian edge to international diplomacy.