Wednesday, October 19, 2005

India Rejects Quake Aid - "False Pride"

After the recent earthquake in the Kashmir region India was offered Aid by UN and several other countries. Simillarly after Tsunami aid was offered by many organizations/countries but India initially rejected that. Why?. Can India really sufficiently handle the crisis? or in its pride to show it is not a receiver it is not accepting aid?. The article below points that this would mostly be (false) Pride. I agree to most extent. This was also the case after Tsunami specially in A&N region where only few NGO's were allowed to work and Indian army was involved in relief efforts.

Calamities of nature do not just test the capacity of a state. They can also offer unexpected opportunities for political craftsmanship.

=== From NYTimes===
"In Poonch, 150 miles northwest of the Indian city of Jammu, earthquake survivors await relief that is slow in coming.

Take India. The government has announced that it needs no international aid to recover from the Oct. 8 earthquake that leveled villages in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, killed an estimated 1,300 people there and displaced roughly 30,000 families.

As temperatures fall to near freezing in the hilltop hamlets of Kashmir, the most liberal estimates suggest that fewer than half of the surviving families have tents to sleep in. Yet a full nine days and nights after the quake, Indian officials say they have no need for the United Nations, nor foreign aid agencies, to bring tents from abroad.

Indian officials say that they are able to care for their own, and that tents are coming from private producers and the Indian military. What is more, India has sent aid, including 620 tents, to its neighbor and archrival, Pakistan. "We ourselves are taking care of our victims," said Navtej Sarna, the Foreign Ministry spokesman. "When there are offers by friendly countries and anything is needed, these offers are considered."

It is too early to tell whether India, which seeks a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, can go it alone. Certainly there is anger in Indian-administered Kashmir among people who have been forced to build their own tents out of the wooden beams and tin sheets retrieved from the rubble of their homes. Even so, India's posture says a great deal about the politics of disaster aid, and about India's own ambitions to assert itself as a world power.

India also refused international aid in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, though it later allowed United Nations and private agencies to help. Three years ago, it rebuffed development aid from a number of foreign donors, saying it was no longer necessary. In short, India has been anxious to portray itself as a giver, rather than a receiver. "What we can manage on our own, we do," said Hamid Ansari, a retired Indian diplomat. "There's a certain sense of self-confidence that we can manage it and, let me say, a desire to signal that you are capable of managing things on your own."

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the director of a private research group here called the Center for Policy Research, saw reflected in India's rejection of foreign aid so far a desire to be seen as an emerging global power, or one of what he called "the big boys."

"The risk really is that in our refusal to accept aid I don't think we are keeping people to whom aid might go as central," Mr. Mehta said. "We are playing politics with aid, using aid to make a statement."

Pakistan's approach has been exactly the opposite. Hit a whole lot harder by the Oct. 8 quake - its official death toll stood at 42,000 on Tuesday- Pakistan has appealed for worldwide help and allowed foreigners to travel to its side of Kashmir and to the traditionally well-guarded pockets of North-West Frontier Province, the two areas that suffered the greatest damage.

Pakistan is the world's largest manufacturer of tents, but still cannot produce nearly enough. The United Nations said Tuesday that 350,000 additional tents were urgently needed and that 500,000 earthquake survivors had still not received any medical care, food or other assistance.

There is no agreement on whether India has sufficient tents to care for its own. The Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Indian Army would be able to help make up the shortfall. The army spokesman in Kashmir, Lt. Col. S. K. Batra, cautioned that the military, itself badly hit in the earthquake, could not entirely deplete its own stock. The government's joint secretary of disaster management, Aseem Khurana, vowed that enough tents would be sent within a week. So far, roughly 13,000 of the 30,000 tents required have been distributed, he said, slightly less than half sent by the Indian Army.

State government officials in Kashmir said they were puzzled about the dearth of tents. "It is really eye-opening for us, that in this country with such a large population base, more than a million-strong army, and so many paramilitary forces we just do not have enough tents," said Muzaffar Baig, the Kashmir state finance and planning minister. "Every day we are getting only 300 to 400 tents from the central government."


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