By Tenzin Dharpo
Former President of Botswana Ian Khama. file
DHARAMSHALA, Mar. 5: Former President of Botswana Ian Khama’s proposed visit to the seat of the exile Tibetan government to attend the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising day has run into opposition from the ruling government in Gaborone fearing backlash from China.
Khama who earlier in 2017 invited the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Botswana despite Beijing’s objection, has been extended invitation by the exile Tibetan government known officially as the Central Tibetan Administration to Dharamshala as the chief guest on the commemorative day.
Ruling government in Gaborone however has expressed objection to the trip of the former President citing unwanted friction with Beijing and has said that the proposed visit is against the country’s recognition of the ‘One China policy’ and advised Khama to not go to Dharamshala.
Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Nkatla Morupisi on the 26th February wrote in an official correspondence stating, “As you may recall, Botswana subscribes to the “One China Policy”, and essentially this means we regard Tibet as part of China.
“Furthermore, Botswana’s relations with the People’s Republic of China suffered on the issue of Tibet last; and therefore as a country we do not intend to engage in anything which can further sour our relations with China. Botswana does not recognize Tibet as an Independent State.”
Morupisi further said that the thawed relation between Botswana and China may be affected by the former President’s visit to Dharamshala based CTA which China labels a rogue establishment. “It would therefore not argue well for the Government of Botswana to sponsor or support (financially, diplomatically or logistically) any personality, especially a high profile individual as the former President, to interact with the Tibetan Group, which is in exile in India,” he further wrote.
Khama in response has said that he is entitled to government assistance on logistics and finances for trips anywhere he chooses. He said, “I think I will take the legal route. As much as I know I am entitled to four international trips per year and they do not have a say on where I am going. This is unacceptable. Those people value my leadership.”
Ian Khama has earlier been confronted by China when he invited the Dalai Lama to his country in 2017 for a conference which the Tibetan leader later cancelled citing health complications. Despite strong opposition from Beijing, the then President of the tiny African nation Botswana emerged a defiant character asserting that his country will not fall prey to China’s arm-twisting. His remark that his country is “not a colony of China” is seen as a rare and outspoken stand against China with regards to the latter’s economic clout, especially in the African sub continent.