Seven-in-ten Indians and roughly six-in-ten Pakistanis think it is important to improve relations. -File Photo

WASHINGTON: Despite tensions and distrust, majorities in both India and Pakistan want their government to work towards improving bilateral relations, says a new US survey.

The Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, which interviewed thousands of people in both countries, notes: “Indians and Pakistanis see their often fractious relationship in a similarly negative light. But both want their bilateral relations to improve.”

To achieve this target, “majorities in both countries want to see their governments pursue efforts to better cross-border ties,” the report adds.

The face-to-face survey of more than 4,000 people in India was conducted between March 19 and April 19. A similar survey was done in Pakistan earlier this year.

Seven-in-ten Indians and roughly six-in-ten Pakistanis (62 per cent) think it is important to improve relations.

Nearly two-thirds of both Indians and Pakistanis say that increased trade between the two countries would be a good thing. But, while supportive, Indians are less-intensely focused than Pakistanis on resolving the Kashmir dispute.

About six-in-ten Indians (59 per cent) say it is very important to resolve Indo-Pakistani differences over Kashmir, compared with roughly eight-in-ten Pakistanis (79 per cent) who hold such strong sentiments.

Each has nation an unfavourable view of the other, but Pakistani sentiment is more intense: 72 per cent of Pakistanis see India unfavourably, with more than half (55 per cent) viewing their neighbour very unfavourably. And 57 per cent of Pakistanis see India as a very serious threat.

The United States and President Barack Obama: A 58 per cent-majority of urban Indians is favorably disposed toward the United States. They see America in a more favorable light than they view other major world powers, such as Russia (48 per cent) or the EU (38 per cent).

About seven-in-ten city dwellers (71 per cent) who say they are following the US election closely want President Obama to be re-elected.

China: Only a third of urban Indians have a favorable view of China and about half (53 per cent) think China’s growing economy is a bad thing for India.

Only 13 per cent of all Indians have a favourable view of Pakistan; 59 per cent have an unfavourable opinion of their Muslim neighbour. This is the lowest percentage approval of Pakistan among the nine countries where this question was asked.

About six-in-ten Indians (59 per cent) see Pakistan as a very serious threat to India.

Pakistan is viewed as a far greater menace than Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Naxalite Maoist domestic insurgency (which in 2011 was blamed for about 600 deaths) or the security challenge posed by China, which fought a war with India in 1962 and in recent years has periodically massed troops on India’s north-eastern frontier.

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