Botswana dumps Dalai Lama
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone – In what is seen as fearing a backlash from China, Botswana has distanced itself from the planned visit by exiled Tibet spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
In a statement, government spokesperson, Dr Jeff Ramsay said that in light of ongoing domestic and international media reports, the government of Botswana has no official involvement in a three-day conference entitled “Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama Spirituality, Science and Humanity.” The event is scheduled for 17-19 August 2017.
Ramsay said that contrary to information released by the event’s apparent organisers “Mind and Life Institute,” President Khama “shall not be delivering the opening address at the event; neither shall he be participating in the said conference in any other way.”
“We further wish to affirm that, contrary to speculation in some quarters, the Government of Botswana will not be accommodating or otherwise extending official hospitality to Lhamo Thondup, otherwise known as Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama, should he visit our country,” read Ramsay’s statement.
“Finally we wish to hereby affirm, again contrary to information circulated by the ‘Mind and Life Institute,’ that the Botswana Government’s Chief of Protocol is not acting as a contact person for the event.”
Asked if it made a u-turn fearing a backlash from China, the Botswana government said consistent with the United Nations, Botswana like virtually all jurisdictions in the world, upholds the one-China principle in its official relations with the People’s Republic of China.
In a rare visit to Africa, the Dalai Lama is set for a three –day sojourn in Botswana in August at the invitation of a non-profit group called Mind and Dialogue in Botswana.
South Africa has previously denied the Dalai Lama visa for fear angering China which hold Tibet to be part of its sovereign territory.
The Dalai Lama seeks autonomy for Tibet but the Chinese government insists it is already autonomous and accuses him of seeking independence.
Immigration and Gender Affairs Minister Edwin Batshu has since confirmed that government has approved a visa for the Dalai Lama. A member of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi (House of Chiefs) recently expressed a worry that the visit by the Dalai Lama has already shown that that it has caused some diplomatic tension between Gaborone and Beijing.
According to The Patriot newspaper, as a warning shot, Chinese embassy in Gaborone has suspended all the scholarship and workshops that they used to sponsor government officials to China.
The paper reports that Beijing has instructed its embassy in Gaborone to suspend sponsorship seminars adding that most of the training were supposed to start in July and none of those that were supposed to travel to China have been called. The Chinese embassy declined to discuss the issue.
The only country that has stood against China over the Dalai Lama is India which has ignored all the appeals by Beijing not to honour the Dalai Lama. Following the Dalai Lama’s visit to India’s north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, China slammed India for facilitating his visit to the area saying the visit has severely damaged the two countries relations. While India has stated that his visit to the area was purely religious in nature and urged
China not to create artificial controversy over the visit, it also urged Beijing not to interfere in India’s internal affairs.
In May this, the Chinese government also criticised the USA for sending a bipartisan delegation of American lawmakers to India to visit the exiled spiritual leader.
China pursues an aggressive One-China policy through which it wants the world to accept that there is only one China and no independent states of Taiwan and Tibet. On account of advocating for an independent Tibet, China sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist.
China regularly deploys its economic and political muscle to pressure governments to limit contact with the Dalai Lama.