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China's rise fuels mistrust among many Indians

INDIA: The vast majority of Indians are worried about China's rise and consider it a security threat, an opinion poll has revealed, with the results exposing a serious trust deficit between the Asian giants.

The survey, conducted by the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Australia India Institute, found 83 per cent of Indians considered China a security threat. A possible war with China was rated a "big threat" by almost three in four respondents.

Reasons included China's possession of nuclear weapons, competition for resources, and border disputes. Even though China was now India's largest trading partner, just 31 per cent of Indians agreed that China's rise had been good for India.

Lowy Institute analyst Rory Medcalf, the author of the India Poll 2013 report, said the level of mistrust was surprising and disturbing.

"This has implications for Australia because it suggests two of the key countries in the Asian century have a trust deficit that they have to deal with," he said.

Mr Medcalf said the findings showed wariness about China's rise was not confined to India's political and policy elite but was widely held among Indian citizens.

When asked about their attitudes to other countries, Indians rated the United States most positively. Three-quarters of those surveyed wanted US-India ties strengthened over the next 10 years.

Pakistan was rated the most unpopular country in India, with 94 per cent of respondents regarding it as a major security threat.

But there were some hopeful signs for relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947. Nine out of ten respondents agreed that ordinary people on both sides of the border wanted peace.

A similar proportion said a big improvement in India-Pakistan relations would require courageous leadership on both sides, and 76 per cent said India should take the initiative.

Three-quarters of respondents were optimistic about prospects for the Indian economy, despite slower growth rates recently.

But most Indians saw big problems looming. Shortages of energy, water and food, along with climate change, registered as the most important challenges, with 80-85 per cent of Indians rating these as "big threats" to their country's security.

Other issues rated as big threats by large majorities of Indians included possible war with Pakistan, home-grown terrorism, foreign jihadist attacks and a continuing Maoist insurgency.

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