Botswana’s balancing act
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.