On Monday, an undersea earthquake shook Indonesia's remote Mentawai Islands and triggered a 10-foot tsunami: It has killed at least 272 people, and left 412 missing. The first cargo plane with humanitarian supplies arrived today. Hundreds of miles away in eastern Java, the volcanic Mount Merapi erupted Tuesday and killed at least 30 people.
That's two disasters in less than 24 hours.
Indonesia is no stranger to catastrophe. It is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is one of the most seismically and volcanically volatile areas in the world. Its last sizeable earthquake and tsunami duo struck in December of 2004, killing more than 225,000 people in 14 countries.
But despite the death and destruction of the last 48 hours, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said today that he doesn't yet see a need for foreign aid or rescue assistance.
So far, only the Philippines and the United States have offered to help Indonesia. But Natalegawa's behavior seems counter-intuitive. In the face of disaster, why would any country preemptively say no to aid?
A look into Indonesia's history reveals latent political sensitivities that may have influenced Natalegawa's decision. Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization of countries who are not aligned with or against any major world power.