Early on Sunday morning, four armed militants lobbed around 17 grenades in a matter of three minutes at an Army brigade headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector, killing 18 soldiers. While India blamed Pakistan for the attack and demanded quick action, a report released the next day by global research firm Pew Research said Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to be popular among Indians even though they are not particularly upbeat about his handling of neighbouring Pakistan.

While Modi rose to popularity and won the general elections of 2014 by giving tough statements against Pakistan and committing to protecting the country from threats and terrorist incidents such as the one in Uri, recent killings in Kashmir and continued infiltration from across the border seem to have punctured some of those claims. There are many who claim that Modi’s policy with regard to Pakistan has proven weak.

The respondents to Pew’s survey overwhelmingly favoured Modi’s foreign policy overall – except when it came to Pakistan. The surveyors undertook face-to-face interviews with over 2,400 respondents, out of whom 81% held a “favourable” view of the prime minister while an equal percentage held his Bharatiya Janata Party in positive light.

However, Modi's massive popularity didn’t translate into support for his foreign policy in commensurate measure. Half (50%) the respondents said they didn’t agree with Modi’s policy on Pakistan while only 22% approved of it – the rest, 28%, said they didn’t have any opinion on the same.

This is in stark contrast to people’s views on the prime minister’s dealing with China and Russia, which got approval ratings of 38% and 43%, respectively.

Meanwhile, a large number of Indians also seem to be concerned about China’s relationship with Pakistan. Nearly half of the respondents – 48% – said that China’s growing friendship with Pakistan is a threat to India.

Out of those who think China’s relationship with Pakistan is a threat, those who identified with the BJP were much more critical (54%) compared to those who support the Indian National Congress (44%). Only 2% of the people asked this question said they didn’t have a view on it.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that three out of every four Indians view Pakistan in an unfavourable light. Only 14% of the people said they viewed Pakistan in a “favourable” light while 13% expressed no opinion on the same.

Similarly, the percentage of those who support dialogue with Pakistan has declined over the year. About 56% of the respondents said India should keep talking to its neighbour to sort out issues. The figure was 60% last year – a jump from 53% in the year before that.

The hostility towards Pakistan and China’s relationship with it also translated into support for an aggressive military stance – 63% Indians backed increased military spending, while 20% said it should be kept the same and only 6% felt it needed to be reduced.

“About six-in-10 Indians back increased military spending. Only about a third of Americans and Europeans are willing to boost current defence budgets,” the report stated, adding that those who see China as a threat are more likely to back increased defence spending.

“Notably, Indians who see China’s growing military power as a very serious problem are more likely than those who see China’s growing military power as a less serious threat to favour increased military spending,” the report said.

Moreover, a big majority, 62%, of the respondents said aggressive use of the military is the best way to counter terrorism in the world. At the same time, only one in five Indians felt that relying too much on military force creates hatred, which could give rise to more acts of terrorism.

“Roughly six-in-10 Indians say the use of overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world,” the report said, adding, "Less than half of Americans and Europeans agree."

While 53% of Indians said the country should deal with its own problems first before going to help other countries, 46% said human rights should be an important foreign policy objective for India going forward.

“Roughly a quarter (27%) say improving human rights is important, but that many other foreign policy goals should be more important. Just 5% believe that human rights should not be an important Indian foreign policy objective,” the report concluded.