I was talking to someone over the weekend about the Tsunami and they mentioned that it was so bad that India is refusing aid from other countries. I didn't want to start an argument then so I didn't say anything in response to that comment, but since this is my space, I'll respond right here.
On the surface, it would seem pretty haughty for India to refuse help from other countries, but upon further consideration, it's about the best thing that India can do given the situation and given the history of India's desire to be self-relient. Looking back on India's history, much of it's economic development was designed to ensure that it could be self-relient. Some of the methods have led to slower growth, but the motives were pretty clear - India could build its own factories and grow its own food.
Now with the current situation, it's clear that India wants to flex its muscles in the region. Although China has a larger population, India is really the powerhouse in this portion of Asia. By refusing outside aid, the Indian government is saying that they can take care of their own. Moreover, by promising aid to other affected countries, New Delhi is saying that they will look out for their neighbors even in times of great need and despair.
This is sort of what the United States did after WWII. It's because of U.S. aid that Europe got back on its feet then. It's because of U.S. support that both Germany and Japan grew to be economic powerhouses. Of course, the entire picture is much more complex than that, but the bottom line is that the U.S. took on a role of lifting up affected nations and getting them back on their feet.
Now, India isn't provided nearly the amount of support that the U.S. did back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, but the message is clear. We're big boys now and we'll look out for our own as well as for our neighbors.
For years, India has been trying to cement its status as regional powerhouse, but nothing has really solidified it. Even the IT boom hasn't made India as big a powerhouse as could be. So perhaps in the face of tragedy, India will be able to establish itself on the table with the big boys. Who knows where this will lead...permanent UN Security Council seat? More leverage in WTO talks? I think the coming months will be very enlightening for people interested in seeing where Indian power heads. Hopefully New Delhi can back up its promises and hopefully it helps to solidify the country's place with the traditional world powers.