February 20, 2007Foreign Affairs

Is India bucking a global realist trend?

Or is it displaying realism of another kind?

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Bucking the global realist trend (www.worldpublicopinion.com)

On an average, an international opinion poll shows, one out of every two persons in the world believes that the conflict between Islam and the West is due to political power and interests. (via The Washington Realist) One country bucks that trend more than any other—India.

The most common view among Indians is that Muslim and Western cultures can find common ground (35%) but a significant number feel that conflict between the two is inevitable (24%). Indian views about the source of tensions between Islam and the West are also somewhat mixed, with many not taking a position. About a third (32%) say that tensions arise from conflicts over political power and interests, while a quarter (25%) blame differences in religion and culture. Similarly, while 43 percent of Indians believe that intolerant minorities are the cause of current tensions between Islam and the West, 27 percent cite fundamental differences between the two cultures. Among those who blame intolerant minorities, nineteen percent specify a Muslim minority, while smaller numbers say an intolerant Western minority (12%) or intolerance on both sides (12%). [PIPA/WorldPublicOpinion.org]

Excluding fence-sitters Indian realists’ still outnumber those who believe that the conflict is about religious values. Yet on this issue at least, realists constitute a much smaller fraction of the population than in any other country surveyed. Let’s not forget though that India has the greatest amount of experience managing religious diversity within a constitutional democratic framework than any of those countries. Indeed, the Indian response may be an optimistic realism—though that sounds like an oxymoron to Western Realists—of an everyday kind.

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