Research Blog

US public opinion toward India

India’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has triggered substantial concern among Democrats in Congress, leading to a heated committee hearing in the House on October 22, 2019. In addition to House Democrats like Pramila Jayapal, several Senate Democrats, especially Chris Van Hollen (as well as Republican Lindsey Graham), have been vocally skeptical of post-August 5 Indian policies. Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have similarly criticized the human rights situation in the Kashmir Valley.

This made me wonder what the landscape of US public opinion toward India is, especially the party politics at play.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs runs excellent polling on US opinion toward foreign policy. Their 2019 report (p. 33) shows overall quite positive views of the US-India relationship among Americans (and very negative views of the US relationship with Pakistan):

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This overall favorability is borne out in data from Gallup (image from this article), asking about Americans’ views of India since 2000:

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With the bulk of criticisms on Kashmir coming from Democrats, what can we say about partisan divisions in US opinion?

The figure below is from the Chicago Council’s 2017 report (page 15), comparing confidence in countries to “deal responsibly with world problems”:

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In this measure, we see a partisan divide – Democrats are more pro-India than Republicans by 14-16 percentage points, with “Core Trump Supporters” similar to Republicans. There are similar partisan splits with regard to Russia (notice the striking shift in Republicans’ views from 2015 to 2017!), China (Democrats +12 in 2017), the EU ( Democrats +19 in 2017, and +25 vs. Trumpists), and Germany (Democrats +15). Japan doesn’t get that treatment.

The Council in 2017 also asked respondents what they think about countries’ global influence, from 0 to 10, with 10 being the greatest influence (p. 31):

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The differences are not massive, so we wouldn’t want to put too much weight on them, but here again we see evidence that Democrats are generally more pro-India than Republicans at the level of mass opinion. The variability by country is striking: Trump supporters are substantially more likely to view the US and Russia as more influential than Democrats and independents, while the pattern is reversed for the EU, Germany, South Korea, and India. There aren’t noticeable differences in views of China and the UK. The difference between Democrats and Trump supporters in views of India is .6, around the difference between Democrats and Republicans (but not Trump core backers, which is .8) in views of Russia; Democrat/Republican splits in views of India are similar to Democrat/Republican splits in views of Germany.

In her analysis of the 2015 Chicago Council poll, which asked about the desirability of countries’ leadership in global politics, Alyssa Ayres noted a Democratic tilt toward India (small, but larger than that on the EU or Russia).

In turn, there is evidence from Pew in 2018 that Indians join Russians and Germans as being “much more likely to say their country is playing a bigger role in world affairs than are people in other countries.” It does not bode well for mutual understanding if Americans think of India as somewhat important but not massively so, while Indians believe Americans do – or should – think India is more important than Americans actually do.

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While the House hearings have had minimal media impact in the US – the spiraling political crisis in Washington has sucked up all the attention, among various other pressing disasters – this is an interesting time for the politics of US-India relations. With all the caveats that come with these kinds of data, it does appear to be the case that Democrats have been more pro-India in recent years. Some of this may be due to Indian-Americans tending toward the Democrats, but they remain only 1% of voters, so it not simply due to that alone.

How might we make sense of this potential change? Put simply, the rise of the BJP as India’s dominant party is not something that most Democrats are likely to view with great enthusiasm, nor any kind of Indian embrace of the staggeringly-unpopular Donald Trump (one can imagine reactions when PM Modi said in Houston that “I admire him [Trump] for something more: his sense of leadership, a passion for America, a concern for every American, a belief in American future, and a strong resolve to make America great again”). India’s justifications for its actions in Kashmir have clearly not persuaded a chunk of Democratic lawmakers, despite Indian diplomatic efforts. The globalized media environment makes other countries’ political systems more legible than in decades past: every campaign speech by Amit Shah is immediately visible to a global audience, as is every report about conditions in the Kashmir Valley.

Blaming the “liberal media” is a standard Republican line that will not get much traction among those Democrats already inclined toward skepticism. Ambassador Shringla arguing that the American media has been peddling “half-truths, untruths, factually incorrect information” similarly may not have been wildly compelling.

As Ashley Tellis has recently argued, Trump’s foreign policy toward India has been “transactional” and characterized by “capriciousness”; the dominant Trumpist wing of the Republican party should not be seen as a source of consistent comfort. In turn, with Democrats putting a greater emphasis on values and human rights in the Trump era, and identifying the spread of global illiberalism as a threat to American democracy (see, for instance, Sitaraman, Wright, Sanders, and Magsamen et al.; it’s worth noting that none of them prominently mention India one way or another), India’s favorable domestic coalition in the US may be facing new strains in the coming years.

Media appearances on Kashmir and more

  1. I wrote a skeptical op-ed in the Hindustan Times about the government’s move on Article 370. As I note, I could easily be wrong, but my judgment is that this is a much riskier and less straightforward policy shift than much of the hyperbolic, government-line-backing discussion in India (to a lesser extent, the US) suggests: “Kashmir: A bold strategy isn’t always wise”
  2. I participated in podcasts on the topic: Deep Dish with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and The World Unpacked by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  3. Drew Stommes and I published a piece in The Print summarizing some data we have gathered on the demography of India’s main paramilitary forces (the Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force) and Army. The academic version, with way more stuff, is here, and the dataset is available here.
  4. Austin Carson and I went on the Thank You for Your Service podcast to discuss civil-military relations around the world and in the US, as well as a huge variety of other topics.

Asia and foreign policy podcasts

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while doing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc. When not listening to photography shows (i.e. the Classic Lenses Podcast), I focus on Asia and foreign policy podcasts. Here are a few recommendations, in no order (I listen to all of them on iTunes, but links are to whatever pops up most easily when I googled):

The Diplomat/Asia Geopolitics – a very granular, background-to-the-news podcast ably hosted by Ankit Panda. Covers all of Asia, including places/topics that tend not to get much attention in US media.

National Security Conversations with Happymon Jacob. Jacob, a JNU academic with a broad public profile in India’s security debates, interviews a guest on a specific topic each week. Excellent for giving a wide variety of perspectives on India’s security and foreign policy from prominent Indian journalists, scholars, analysts, and former policymakers.

Bombshell. A now-classic War on the Rocks podcast, often with a female NatSec-focused guest. Mostly built around the insights and personalities of Erin Simpson, Radha Iyengar, and Loren DeJonge Schulman. Very enjoyable and covers a wide range of US and international topics; manages to stay fresh.

Three Things from the Indian Express. I listen to this news summary show when I want to immerse in day-to-day happenings in Indian politics. It’s too much to keep up with otherwise, but was invaluable in the aftermath of Pulwama and through the 2019 general election, and when I was teaching my IR of South Asia class.

Grand Tamasha. Milan Vaishnav’s show blends interviews with summaries of what’s been happening in Indian politics. It does a really nice job bringing in journalists and academics to provide analysis.

Ganatantra. A primarily-academic show on Indian politics and society – based on interviews with scholars of particular topics; good for selected deep-dives.

Tea Leaves. Kurt Campbell and Rich Verma’s interview-based show. More a celebration of the guests than back-and-forth analytical, but still often insightful.

Asia Chessboard. Hosted by Mike Green at CSIS, a new interview-based focus on Asia strategy and geopolitics. Similar to Tea Leaves, in ways good and bad.

Jaw Jaw. Another War on the Rocks podcast; Brad Carson does a great job pushing interviewees hard on their views of the rise of China – lots of willingness to get into debates and push back on guests’ arguments. The first season was on China and is now finished; not sure what will come next but the China interviews were diverse and fascinating.

Power Problems. I’m not a Cato Institute person in my general politics, but their views of foreign policy are often thought-provoking. Hosted by Emma Ashford and Trevor Thrall.

New data on Indian internal security force fatalities and demographics

Drew Stommes and I just published an article in India Review that introduces a set of new data we’ve collected in the last four or so years on fatalities among India’s internal security forces. It is fairly comprehensive, we hope, on the CRPF and BSF, substantially less so on the Army, and, unfortunately, incomplete and problematic (with huge variation in both) on the state police forces.

The project began while I aimlessly googling around and found a pair of massive PDFs that MHA had published to commemorate those who died in service, which then begin a multi-year process of trying to more systematically gather relevant information. I personally found the demographics of the MHA forces to be the newest and most interesting set of findings – with important caveats, there appear to be substantial regional imbalances in the composition of these forces (some intended, some perhaps not).

The data are available in the Data section of my website – we’d love for researchers and analysts to use and improve them.

Laksmana on “micro” military politics in Indonesia

Evan Laksmana has a really interesting article out in the Journal of Contemporary Asia that examines how internal promotion patterns have influenced the politics of the TNI after democratization. I have found research on military politics in Indonesia (i.e. Kammen and Chandra) a real inspiration for my own work, with Dann Naseemullah and Ahsan Butt, on “Pakistan’s Military Elite.” Here’s the abstract of the Laksmana paper:

“This article seeks to explain the increasingly regressive (or illiberal) behaviour on the part of the Indonesian military. It focuses on the expansion of the Army’s Territorial Command structure, the growing military intrusion into civilian polity and the stunted progress of military professionalism. It provides an organisational, rather than political, perspective. Conceptually, the article synthesises various approaches to comparative politics to explain why and how military personnel policies affect political behaviour. Empirically, using a series of original datasets of hundreds of officers, the article demonstrates how promotional logjams – too many officers but too few positions available – over the past decade help explain the regressive behaviours we recently witnessed. It is further argued that the lack of institutionalisation in personnel policies gave rise to and prolonged these logjams. This article draws attention to the importance of intra-organisational dynamics in understanding the state of civil–military relations in post-authoritarian Indonesia.”

Malik and Siddiqui on violence & politics in Karachi

This is a fascinating new report for the United States Institute of Peace by Mashail Malik and Niloufer Siddiqui on exposure to violence and politics in Karachi. Some key takeaways:

“individuals exposed to violence are less likely to trust that elections would be free and fair, and more likely to expect and fear electoral violence. The impact of violence on political behavior was greater for respondents exposed to violence perpetrated by political or state elements, and such individuals are less likely to turn out to vote.”

“the survey also found very low baseline levels of trust between ethnic communities in Karachi. Exposure to violence is correlated with higher levels of intolerance”

“Narratives that framed Karachi’s history of violence in distinct ways had minimal effect on decreasing prejudice, indicating that intergroup trust may be difficult to alter in the short term”

Publishing your first academic book

I’ve recently had several in-person and electronic conversations about the process of publishing a first academic book. I thought it might be useful to offer some thoughts and advice because it can seem like a very murky and opaque process. I’m drawing here on my own experience and that of friends and colleagues: others’ advice will surely differ, but I hope this gives at least a broad sense of how to think about approaching publishing.

One key step is to meet or speak with an editor about the project. You probably don’t want to approach before the book is even remotely ready (this appears to be different for more senior scholars), but I also don’t think there is any reason to have the full revised manuscript done. You can provide a timeline of when you expect a full manuscript or specific chapters.

I would suggest emailing press editors 6-8 weeks prior to a major academic conference (ISA, MPSA, APSA, etc). You can ask friends or advisers who have worked with an editor to make a connection ahead of time if you feel comfortable doing so. This doesn’t actually seem necessary, though; my sense is that the best editors have a pretty good nose for topics they are interested in, regardless of who has or hasn’t emailed them ahead of time.

It would be a big disservice if people talk themselves into not contacting top editors because they don’t have the pedigree/connections to get an introduction – I’d suggest just going ahead and doing it once you have a polished prospectus, a credible timeline, and a good sense of what you want the book to look like.

It can, however, be very useful to ask around among colleagues or looking through recently published books for a clear idea of which editors are most relevant to your project. If at all possible, don’t email the general email address for the press.

This email should ask if it would be possible to meet, provide a very brief overview of who you are and 1-paragraph summary of the book, and include an attached 4-6 page book prospectus. As an example, this is the prospectus I sent to Cornell in 2011 (note: much changed since!). I drew this from several older friends, so it seems like a useful general template. You may attach an introductory chapter or some other chunks of the book if you want; I didn’t but know others who did. You can also propose an email or phone conversation if you or the editors won’t be heading to relevant conference anytime soon.

The editor will hopefully write back and set something up, or let you know that he or she doesn’t see a great fit for the project. I’d recommend either contacting several editors at once or having a back-up list to go to if your top choice declines. Try to be gracious (easier said than done, I know. . .) if there is a rejection – you may end up wanting to work with this person again and they get many times more proposals than they could possibly publish.

At the meeting/in the conversation, try to get your basic argument and contribution across in a clear and engaging way – why would someone pay money to read your work? Why does this need to be a book instead of an article or set of articles? Which audience/s do you want it to appeal to? How far into the process are you? Engage the editor about the shape and direction of the manuscript, since they have tons of experience on the different ways books can be structured, what works and doesn’t, etc. You want them on your side, since all of their incentives are to pass on books given the crush of proposals/submissions they face and the alarming economics of academic publishing.

The editor may express interest and ask to see more of the book when it’s ready, or politely decline to move forward. Follow his or her lead on how to keep in touch and how to submit if there is interest. I personally have found book manuscript workshops staggeringly useful (I just had an amazing lineup of scholars break my current project down and rebuilt it on Tuesday) prior to submitting for review, but your rhythm, resources, and needs will vary of course.

Some people get interest from multiple presses. You can definitely ask about or even push for multiple submissions for review (i.e. to both Cambridge and Princeton, or Oxford and Chicago), but don’t expect it.

If you don’t have a finished manuscript ready to go, you can send an occasional brief email to the editor keeping them up to date on what you are up to. And then the review process is not unlike journals – off it goes into the ether, for some undetermined period of time, without much certainty about results. People tend, I think, to share their book rejection stories far less than their journal rejection stories, but they very much do happen, so don’t let your submission get too close to promotion time if at all possible. Even if it does get accepted, then there will likely be another year or more of the production process. Long-term thinking is important here – there is a limit to how fast even a supportive editor can move things along, and none can guarantee good news.

There is a whole complicated world after acceptance – contract negotiations, copyediting, indexing, etc, but those are ultimately secondary to getting someone to offer a contract. This is just my limited take on the process, so if you have more thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments.

PS. My colleague Austin Carson offered a set of valuable thoughts and tips on this process in this Twitter thread.

Approval of Chinese and American leadership in South Asia

I’ve been crashing on a whole variety of things: teaching a new IR of South Asia lecture class, finishing the first full draft of my Armed Politics book manuscript for a late May book workshop, keeping up with the news and new research, and trying, and mostly failing, to not catastrophically fall behind on absolutely everything. So I am basically accomplishing almost nothing beyond frantically building Powerpoint slides and triaging my email.

That said, a project I am *thinking* about as my next book is the domestic politics of foreign policy in South Asia. I have several data collection projects of various forms going on regarding India, and am finding various interesting pieces of quantitative data and case studies to explore in the rest of the region.

I’ve been particularly interested in tracking down public opinion data, which seems like a potentially under-explored area. The internal breakdowns are of greater theoretical interest (what explains variation within each country in views of China?), but here’s an aggregate comparison of “Approval of China’s Leadership” from the Gallup World Poll, 2006-18 (the chart can also be found here if you have trouble reading it embedded in this post):

Pakistan (red) is by far the highest approval overall, and has increased a good bit in the last decade, at 73% in 2018, with 55% the lowest in 2009 and 82% the highest in 2016. Nepal follows up (light blue), hitting 52% in 2018, up from a low point of 29% in 2012.

Sri Lanka (yellow) and Bangladesh (green) sit in the middle – both have bounced around a bit, but broadly in the 30-40% approval range over time. India brings up the rear, from 8%-24% depending on the year.

Now here’s the equivalent for the United States (link to chart here):

There’s a substantially lower spread – Nepal brings up the top at 55% in 2018 (low point 28% in 2011), followed by a clustering of India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka at 39-41%, and Pakistan the lowest at 14%. Pakistan has ranged from 7% (2006) to 26% (2011), India is currently at its highest approval (lowest in 2011 at 16%), Sri Lanka has bounced from 48% (2002) to 14% (2012) back up to 39% in 2018. Bangladesh’s low was 19% in 2007 and its high was 48% in 2013.

Obviously there are massive caveats with this kind of work, but I thought these were interesting patterns across countries and time.