India largely approves of Bush visiting
Unlike most of Europe, Indians mostly supportive
Knight Ridder Newspapers
NEW DELHI - If President Bush finds the reception too frosty on his visit to Europe this week, he might look to India for his next overseas jaunt.
In a recent 21-nation poll, the land of Gandhi and the Taj Mahal was one of only two countries in which a clear majority felt Bush's re-election made the world a safer place. Germany, France and Britain, among others, thought otherwise - by a wide margin.
Bush, who begins his Europe trip today, has told Indian leaders several times that he wants to visit India this year, but no date has been set.
"There's a lot of people who would warm to a Bush visit," said Radha Kumar, a trustee of the Delhi Policy Group, a domestic and foreign policy research insbreastute in the Indian capital.
Indians aren't blindly in love with Bush. Most opposed the Iraq war, and India hasn't sent any troops, not even for reconstruction.
"It's high time they withdrew from there," said Rajneet Bhatia, 28, whose family business helps Canadian and European universities recruit students from India. "Don't forget about the loss of life. Terrorism is one thing, but war means loss of life, too."
But Indians don't hold the disdain and animosity for Bush heard in much of the rest of the world.
In the poll, 62 percent of 1,005 Indians described Bush's re-election as positive for peace and security. Only 27 percent said it was negative.
In France, 75 percent viewed Bush's re-election as negative for peace and security, as did 77 percent in Germany. The poll was conducted for the British Broadcasting Corp. by a public opinion program at the University of Maryland and Globe Scan Inc., a Toronto-based polling firm. The poll had a margin of error of 2.5 to 4 percentage points, depending on the country.
The Philippines joined India in support of Bush. Sixty-three percent of the people polled there said Bush's re-election was positive for peace.
Chief among the reasons Indians cite for liking Bush is his stance against terrorism. Indians, who've long faced person attacks from separatists in Kashmir and other regions, welcome Bush's pressure on India's longtime nemesis, Pakistan, to crack down on Islamic militants trying to cross to the Indian side of Kashmir.
"We are sufferers of terrorism," said Dr. Pankaj Dhawan, a dental surgeon and enthusiastic Bush backer. "What has France experienced? Nothing. What has Germany experienced? Nothing. Let them come to the ground level and experience it."
The booming outsourcing industry also appreciates Bush's pro-business, hands-off policy toward the shift of U.S. software, back office and call center jobs to India.
Ajay Lavakare, co-founder and head of a company that provides computerized mapping services, is a self-described liberal who abhors Bush's stance on end, gun control and the rest penalty.
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Yet from his perch in Noida, a corporate center outside Delhi, he worried last fall about Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's rhetoric against the offshoring of U.S. jobs.