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Bots Defiant Ahead Of Dalai Lama Visit

Botswana’s Government remains unmoved after stirring a hornet’s nest by
allowing Dalai Lama to visit and arguing that the One China policy does not
include South China Sea, as it is a disputed area.

It was also indicated that although Botswana regards Taiwan and Tibet, as
integral to People’s Republic of China, citizens of Taiwan and Tibet are
free to visit to Botswana in their private capacities.

Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi
also told Parliament on Tuesday evening that whilst Botswana remained
strongly committed to the One China policy as a sovereign, independent
state she retains the prerogative to invite to the country whomsoever they
wish.

“It is, therefore our considered view that the Dalai Lama’s visit to
Botswana should not diminish the existing strong bonds of friendship and
fruitful co-operation that has stood the test of time,” said Pelonomi Venson
-Moitoi, Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation.

She said, “We therefore expect the People’s Republic of China to respect
our sovereign decision on this matter, as we never dictate to other
countries who they should admit in their territories.”

The Dalai Lama is attending a 3 day conference between the 17-19 August
2017 entitled “Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama Spirituality,
Science and Humanity” and will also meet President Lieutenant General
Seretse Khama Ian Khama, inviting wrath of China a major trading partner.

Botswana officials say they are disappointed that some Botswana
journalists, editors, academics and political leaders who were recently
hosted by the Government of the People’s Republic of China are being used
to thwart the visit of the Dalai Lama to the Republic of Botswana.

During March 2017, Statistics Botswana figures show that Botswana exports
destined to Asia were valued at P2, 177.1 million, representing 53.4
percent of total exports (P4, 076.8 million).

The major commodity exported to Asia was Diamonds, representing 99.7
percent (P2, 170.5 million) of all goods exported to the region. Botswana
Exports mainly use air as means of transport when considering the value of
exported commodities.

The value of exports is highly influenced by the value of diamonds, which
are transported by air.

According to policy think tank BIDPA, China is Botswana’s 12th largest
export market and the 3rd most important source of imports, after South
Africa and United Kingdom.

The Botswana-China diplomatic relations date back to 1975 and has been
cemented by improved trade in goods, as well as service provision over last
decade. China is now Botswana’s fastest growing trading partner.

Total trade between the countries surged from nearly zero 30 years ago to
BWP34 million in 2000, BWP265 million in 2006, and BWP2.1 billion in 2012.
Botswana’s total imports from China increased from BWP33.82millionin 2000
to BWP1.74 billion in 2012, while Botswana’s exports to China increased
from BWP25 thousand in 2000 to BWP 353 million in 2012.

Trade between Botswana and China dates back to 1975, but began to intensify
from 2006 onwards. In 2011, China was Botswana’s third largest import
supplier after South Africa and the United Kingdom. It was also the 12th
largest destination for Botswana’s exports.

This is not lost on some opposition legislators who are worried that this
import dependent country will be hurt if unilateral sanctions are imposed
by the country by increasingly agitated China.

Dithapelo Keorapetse, Member of Parliament for Selebi-Phikwe West, “China
is the second largest consumer of Botswana diamonds and our third largest
trading partner. We also have a number of military officers in staff
colleges in the Republic of China. China has also been providing assistance
in the area of public health and there are a number of health officials in
Health District Teams around the country as well as personnel training at
medical schools in China.”

He said, “The Minister owes Batswana an explanation on whether we are
prepared to bear cost of sanctions. Batswana do not have a proper picture
of what we are getting from China. It is not in our strategic interest to
depart from the One China policy or put our relations with China in
jeopardy.”

Efforts to get comments from the Chinese Embassy in Gaborone were
unsuccessful.

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