Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bush and Musharraf Share Lowest Approval Ratings

Beyond their commitment to fighting the "war on terror", George W. Bush and his former ally Pervez Musharraf have something else in common. Both of them share the dubious distinction of having the world's lowest approval ratings as leaders, according to a study released recently by the University of Maryland outside the US capital.

While George W. Bush's approval rating at home dipped to 30% and disapproval at 64%, respondents in two countries - Nigeria and India - gave Bush stronger positive than negative ratings. Thailand was about evenly divided. Nigeria gave Bush a 60-per-cent positive and 33-per-cent negative rating. India gave the US leader a 45-per-cent positive and 34-per- cent negative score.

With two countries approving of George W. Bush, he is doing slightly better than Musharraf's fan club of one - China, which gave him a 37-per-cent positive versus a 30-per-cent negative rating. Some of the leaders were at least admired at home - such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China's Hu Jintao and Russia's Vladimir Putin. Gordon Brown did pretty well with a 48-per-cent positive, 46-per-cent negative rating in Britain, after a dozen yeas of Labor Party rule. France's Nicolas Sarkozy got a 54 per cent negative rating at home.

President Bush's popularity in Nigeria is quite understandable because he is the first ever US president to pursue policies and to provide substantial financial aid that have helped the entire continent of Africa. President and Mrs. Bush's Africa trip underscored the new approach to Africa Policy under the Bush administration, and built on a significant increase in the United States' commitment to African development.

India, the only other nation which approves of Bush, has benefited from his policies of closer economic and nuclear cooperation which led to India's rapid economic growth in recent years, and its acceptance as a legitimate member of the prestigious nuclear club, a distinction not bestowed on nuclear rival Pakistan. The US-led war on terror has also legitimized India's crackdown on Islamic and other insurgents and helped India regain influence in Afghanistan and South Asia. Bush's pressure on Musharraf was instrumental in reducing violence in Indian held Kashmir and India, a Musharraf policy that angered the Islamists who started targeting Pakistani civilians and military. Bush popularity is, therefore, based on concrete results India achieved from the support of the outgoing US president.

Regardless of whether Indians agree or not, two of the most important foreign relationships for India are with the US and Pakistan. With Musharraf already out of office and Bush to leave soon, Indians may well have to rethink their strategy vis-a-vis Pakistan and the United States. Delhi may have to be more conciliatory with Pakistan in its bilateral relations and with US in multi-lateral trade, environment and other negotiations to continue to be regarded as a reliable partner in Islamabad and Washington.


Anonymous said...

The US's post-cold war policy shift started with Clinton and accelerated with Condoleezza Rice(NSSP with India is her pet proj) assuming Secretary of State who recognized India's strategic importance. Bush who unlike predecessors have a fresh strategic mindset probably approved it too..but he could hardly take credit for it. India's strategic partnership is strongly backed by Vice.Pres Dick Cheney and Ms.Rice.Pres hopeful McClain is definitely is in the same trajectory.Obama too expressed to continue strategic partnership with India and he importantly backed the N-deal without reservation lately.He is a flip-flop guy so everybody is nervous about him including Israel and Pakistan.Though now Bush administration is almost endorsing Obama's views on Pakistan as the most dangerous countries in the world.In democracies, there is always a strategic continuity, so its unlikely that India has to watch out for a hostile US admin.India is considered as a strategic counterweight to China by US,EU and Russia.Since there is no more cold war,Pak cannot rely on US to provide it with strategic umbrella for its misadventures against India as strategic interests of US and India is fast converging.

Riaz Haq said...


Many Indians, particularly from leftist parties, are very wary of warming ties between India and the US. I can understand why. I offer you two quotes from Henry Kissinger in response to your comments:

1. Nations have no principles, only interests.

2. Being America's ally is more dangerous than being its enemy.

Pakistan has experienced and suffered from US friendship. India's relations with the US are still relatively new and untested.
Indians had better watch out.

Anonymous said...

Left parties are not representative of collective Indian polity..they are a fringe element confined to 2 or 3 tiny states like Kerala,Bengal and Tripura.Vast majority of Indians jealously admire Bush's aggressive war on terror(and Israel) and the resultant security it brought to US homeland by foiling many terror plots post-9/11.
I was indeed referring to "self-interest" itself.India and US strategic interests have converged and is almost on the same trajectory for at least two decades given the projections of strategic analysts.Only very negligible number of issues like relations with Iran that is different from US strategic vision.

There are good working strategic partnerships becoz they are long term like US-UK,US-Israel,India-Israel,Russia-India etc.

The problem with US-Pak partnership is becoz their long-term goals are totally contradictory and they badly need each other in short-term.US need Pak,as it is in an important strategic location and short-term need is logistical support and border control with Afghanistan.Plus US need to be in proximity for a contingency plan if nuclear Pak falls to extremists hands.Pak need US for legitimacy(army),burying its proliferation and terrorist activities from US Congress,military and financial aid in short term.Like it or not Pakistan value is that of a strategic spoiler state like North Korea.North Korea and Pak are artificial spoiler states sustained by China with nuclear weapons and missiles as a bait to US-Japan and India respectively.China will be deeply unhappy if Indo-Pak relationship take off and will pressure Pak to create tension along the border to keep the Indian strategy transfixed on Pak threat.

Riaz Haq said...

Apparently, you have not been following Doha or Kyoto, where the US found India as the key adversary and blamed India for the failure of both. In international relations, there is no such thing as long-term convergence. In fact, many Americans see India as an economic competitor draining jobs away from the US. The main support for India-US comes from the big corporate lobby, not the average Americans. The corporate lobby does have other choices, besides India.

It's not smart to compare US-UK or US-Israel alliances with US-India relations. US-Israel is based on the Israeli interest alone, not the US interests. IT is possible because of the stranglehold of the Jewish lobby in Washington.

US-UK is based more on kinship than anything else.

Denigrating Pakistan as a spoiler state propped up by China is a serious mistake. India's and Pakistan's interests are bound by geography which can not be easily changed. I hope India's policy makers realize that and they are not swayed by your rhetoric.

Mavin said...

I think it is more a case of national interests rather than strategic long term shifts.

This ratings business is funny. Every American President has always pursued American national interests. It does not matter whether they are Republicans or Democrats. They are tough hard nosed bargainers and always see the long term perspective.

The nuclear deal, if you get to the core, is all about $100 - 150 bn worth trade and commerce.

Similarly, if you recollect during Iran - Iraq war, American interests were guarding oil supply lines and supplying arms to both the warring countries.

The leaders achieve their objective. American interests are furthered and thats all that matters.

Musharraf's ascent was widely welcomed within Pakistan then. He sought to change many things but like you said the shelf life is about ten years and he had to face the inevitable "What goes up has to come down" cycle.

What really matters is - What is Musharraf's legacy? How have his contributions (or lack of it)impacted Pakistan and is the country better equipped than before to face the multiple challenges that stare at it now.

I personally would ignore these approval ratings.....