Botswana risks China ties with visit from Dalai Lama

File: AP
File: AP

Gaborone - The Dalai Lama will visit Botswana next month and meet with President Ian Khama, Botswana officials confirmed, in a trip likely to anger China, a key investor across Africa and its largest trade partner.

Beijing views the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist campaigning for Tibetan independence and consistently condemns foreign leaders who meet him.

Botswana "will be extending the normal courtesies for visiting dignitaries", the government said on Wednesday in a statement. "His Excellency (President Khama) will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in Botswana".

The Tibetan spiritual leader, who lives in exile in India, is due to make a public address at the three-day "Mind and Life Dialogue" conference in the Botswana capital Gaborone on August 19.

Botswana's neighbour South Africa has repeatedly denied the Dalai Lama a visa in an apparent attempt to further boost ties with China, drawing fierce criticism from archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.

China's growing demand for raw materials has seen a rapid rise in trade with Africa.

The Chinese government has helped build coal-powered power plants, road networks, bridges and schools in Botswana, in some of its many infrastructure projects in Africa.

Many in the continent see Beijing as a counterbalance to the West, but the relationship has also raised accusations of neo-colonialism.

Botswana, one of the world's largest diamond producers, has a population of just two million people and is known for its stable political scene.

A government spokesman declined to comment to AFP on any risk to relations with China.

The Dalai Lama says he seeks more autonomy for Tibet rather than outright independence.

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