DHARAMSHALA: President Ian Khama of Botswana yesterday promised to re-invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the country after the Tibetan spiritual leader withdrew from a scheduled conference in the capital Gaborone citing exhaustion.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was scheduled to attend a Mind and Life conference in Gaborone from 17- 19 August 2017. The scheduled visit attracted media attention particularly in the host country owing to China’s unwarranted reaction and assertion of pressure on the President to rescind the invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It also reignited discussions on sovereignty of the nation, which got its independence in 1966 from being a British protectorate.
In the lead up to the conference, an exchange of veiled, indirect attacks and counter-attacks between the two countries unfolded, as China accused Botswana of violating a policy in which China views His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s activities as secessionist.
Botswana, however, argued that the invitation was made by a private organisation and is in line with the country’s sovereign right to open its doors to whomever it wishes.
DR VENSON-MOITOI, Minister of Botswana International affairs, have stated in the Botswana parliament that, as a democratic and sovereign state, Botswana has a prerogative to decide who to allow into its territory, based on her immigration regulations.
“Essentially, this is a matter that falls within the domestic jurisdiction of Botswana,” he said in response to a question in the parliament.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama however cancelled the scheduled visit citing exhaustion, temporarily thawing the relation between the two countries.
His Holiness thanked and praised President Khama for his ‘unwavering stand’ despite ‘overwhelming pressure’ and apologised for the last minute withdrawal, promising to visit the country when an opportunity arises.
President Khama said that Bostwana is not China’s colony and said he will be organising a conference of global Nobel Peace Prize laureates for Gaborone and would invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama again to attend the conference.
“I’m working on hosting a summit of Nobel Peace laureates here in Botswana and to this end, I hope His Holiness will be able to come to Botswana then,” he said on 17 August.
Ahead of the conference, President Khama has also given an interview to a local weekly in which he accused Beijing of attempting to intimidate and pressure him into turning His Holiness the Dalai Lama away.
“They (Chinese officials) spoke to anybody under the sun to try undermine this government. They were using time to get to Ministers, Members of Parliament and my own relatives, everybody you can think of to try and prevent the Dalai Lama coming here,” he has told the Botswana Guardian.
Under its ‘One-China’ policy, China is annoyed with any country that welcomes His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Botswana’s relentless stance against China on His Holiness the Dalai Lama has greatly dismayed China with the latter issuing veiled threats of economic repercussions.
Scrambling to stop Botswana from opening its doors to the Tibetan spiritual leader, China has successfully made a fool of itself over a spat with a small nation of just over two million people. Perhaps, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama said in his video message, smaller nations sometimes have more potential to stand up against injustice perpetrated by a bigger power.
President Khama was born in England after his father Seretse Khama was exiled from his own country and has personally experienced life in exile.