India’s Growing Involvement in Humanitarian Assistance


Claudia Meier • C.S.R. Murthy
GPPi Research Paper No. 13


On 13 September 2005, an Indian army aircraft landed on a United States Air Force base in Little Rock, Arkansas, carrying 25 tons of relief supplies to the victims of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. At around the same time, the World Food Program (WFP), a major net provider of food assistance in India until the early 2000s, recognized India as its 15th largest donor (WFP 2006). These two instances show that humanitarian assistance – that is, assistance “designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of emergencies”1 – has fast developed from small occasional contributions into a notable instrument of Indian “soft power” (Nye 2004) within the framework of the country’s foreign policy.

Despite this trend, India’s motives for giving humanitarian assistance, its geographic and thematic priorities and its internal decision processes remain largely unknown. In an attempt to close this research gap, the present paper analyzes India’s humanitarian aid as part of its foreign policy, asking why India gives humanitarian assistance and how internal norms and interests shape the country’s decisions regarding humanitarian assistance.