Botswana’s bal­anc­ing act

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

BOTSWANA is a small coun­try with an in­ter­est­ing his­tory of pre­serv­ing its iden­tity in the face of pow­er­ful in­ter­ests. Back in the late 19th cen­tury, its peo­ple found them­selves un­der at­tack on sev­eral fronts. Strate­gi­cally, the lead­er­ship of the time ap­pealed to the world power of the time, Bri­tain, for pro­tec­tion. And so the Bechua­na­land Pro­tec­torate was born.

Decades later, an in­de­pen­dent Botswana had to care­fully bal­ance its re­la­tion­ship with apartheid South Africa. Even­tu­ally it turned to the US and the UK for mil­i­tary aid.

Over the years, Botswana made a point of de­vel­op­ing closer ties with China, the lat­est su­per power, and the Chi­nese have in­vested heav­ily in the coun­try.

How­ever, a visit by the Dalai Lama to Botswana next month could en­dan­ger those links.

The spir­i­tual leader is due to speak at a three­day “Mind and Life Di­a­logue” con­fer­ence in the cap­i­tal, Gaborone.

The Chi­nese view him as a dan­ger­ous in­di­vid­ual who is lob­by­ing for self-rule in Ti­bet, an au­ton­o­mous re­gion in China.

They are known to pres­sure for­eign gov­ern­ments into iso­lat­ing the Dalai Lama. It was this type of di­plo­macy that re­sulted in South Africa turn­ing its back on the ex­iled Ti­betan leader.

But Botswana is danc­ing to its own tune. It has po­litely told China to re­spect its de­ci­sion. And the Chi­nese should lis­ten.

In Botswana, the Dalai Lama may learn a trick or two about how to use those more pow­er­ful than you are to your ad­van­tage. It in­cludes giv­ing up self-rule in the short-term to pre­serve your iden­tity in the long run.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.