- Nepalese are concerned about their country’s economy (but surprisingly, many think the economic conditions are getting better)
- India has a huge impact on the country.
- Youths place more emphasis on education, are more positive opinion about other countries, are more optimistic about the country’s economic momentum- but are twice as likely as older Nepalese to want to move abroad (maybe because of the first two reasons?).
- Nepalese are ready for stronger regional cooperation.
Gallup has published the result of a survey it conducted in Nepal during mid-July and early August. The survey is part of the Insights South Asia project, a cooperation between the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) and Gallup.
Among others, one interesting finding is about the opinions expressed by the respondents towards India and Pakistan. There is a general understanding about India that people in it’s neighboring countries do not approve of its foreign policies and have a rather negative feeling for India. The Gallup survey portrays a very different picture: Nepalese see Pakistan as South Asia’s greatest security threat. More than 80% respondents of the survey also had a rather positive opinion about India while Pakistan has the most negative ratings among South Asian countries- about a third of all respondents.
My mention of this survey result on twitter invited some surprise at the methodologies and credibility of the survey because of the stark difference between the general perception about India and the results of this survey.
It is quite possible that the so called anti Indian sentiment in Nepal might just be a myth propagated by various factors including political immaturity, media propaganda, bitter memories from history, attempt by the privileged class to create an excuse for their excesses or some similar vested interests. What is lost in all this is that a lot of this perception is also because of a very irresponsible Indian media, Indian leaders, diplomats, bureaucrats, and common people themselves. For example, in many occasions, the high handedness of India in Nepal crosses all accepted limits and it becomes impossible for even a supporter of better Indo-Nepal relations to explain why one should not hate India. This is a subject for another discussion, but it leads us to another issue- about the possible flaws in the survey.
Criticism of the survey:
One can spot the following possible flaws in survey methodology:
- Many people, especially in villages and some remote parts of Nepal’s hills and mountains work in India in various sectors including the Indian army- if the sample was dominated by friends or families of these people, it could have been biased.
- Many people in Nepal’s southern called the Terai (which lies in the border with India) have close cultural and family ties with people in the other side of the border. Daily activities of many people living near the Indo-Nepal border involve a lot of interaction and travel to the Indian side. If the sample was dominated by these people, it could have been biased.
- The detailed sample allocation in the survey report lists the number of people sampled from the five development zones of Nepal (Eastern: 234, Central: 346, Western: 198, Mid-Western: 128, Far-Western: 94) and does not mention anything else. The sample does not seem to be representative. One another important factor is geographic area (Mountain, Hill, Inner Terai, Terai). All the five development zones encompass these areas and there can be a big difference in public opinions across different geographic regions.
Nevertheless, the survey introduces some interesting findings. Even with possibilities of sampling bias, the results are the representation of some portion of Nepal’s population- therefore it would be wrong to out-rightly reject the findings as it would be to treat the results as a true picture of Nepalese opinion.
- A third (33%) of Nepalese surveyed had friends or relatives living in another South Asian country. Ninety-five percent of these respondents had friends or relatives in India.
- Nearly half (48%) of Nepalese surveyed had at least once visited another South Asian country and 97% of these had visited India.
- More than 84% respondents had a rather positive opinion about India. Positive view for other countries were: Bangladesh 44%, Sri Lanka 43%, Bhutan 40%, the Maldives 39%, Pakistan 33% and Afghanistan 26%.
- Almost 74% respondents held a favourable attitude towards China and 73% towards US. Positive view for other countries were: Japan 65%, Germany, France or the UK 44-46%.
- Large shares of respondents did not know enough about the various countries listed in the survey to formulate an opinion.
- If Nepalese would be given a choice between a secular democracy or a Hindu democracy, the majority (63%) would prefer the latter, while a third (34%) would favour the former.
- More than two-thirds (69%) of Nepalese wanted to continue living in their country, while 31% would like to move temporarily or permanently to another country. The United States was the most preferred destination for most socio-demographic groups, with the exception of those with low levels of education who favoured India over the US.
- A lack of political leadership and corruption were by far the most frequently mentioned factors preventing economic growth in Nepal.
- A vast majority (81%) of Nepalese disagreed that the use of violence was an accepted means of resolving conflicts in their country nowadays
- Nepalese youth was more optimistic than older generations about their country’s future as well as their personal futures.
Gallup owns the copyright for the survey report cited in this post.