There’s a farcical note to the India-China tug-of-war playing out over Sri Lanka. A row over what Sri Lankans insist was substandard Chinese organic fertiliser that arrived aboard a Chinese cargo ship, whimsically named the Hippo Spirit, has strained ties between Beijing and Colombo.
Step back a few months earlier to when the Sri Lankan government suddenly declared the nation would go organic and overnight banned all chemical fertilisers, a move that threw tea growers and farmers into panic.
Beijing stepped into the breach, sending a shipment of organic fertiliser. But when it arrived Colombo declared it contained harmful bacteria and refused to pay for the consignment.
India steps in
Amidst all this drama, India suddenly moved into pole position once again as Sri Lanka’s best friend, ready with a handout just when it’s urgently needed. India has come up with an immediate $900-million aid package and a $1.5-billion credit line.