Despite the controversy that surrounds Botswana’s foreign policy especially with regard to its recent outbursts when critiquing other states often deviating from regional resolutions, University of Botswana Political Science scholar Dr Gladys Mokhawa is of the view that it is not all bad as recently projected by many. Speaking during a panel discussion on 50 years of Botswana Foreign policy organised and hosted by the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation and the University of Botswana, Dr Mokhawa said diplomacy in its form is multifaceted and often structured to suit the current environment and needs of a particular state. “There has to be understanding that foreign policy is not built upon some abstractions but rather the result of practical conceptions of national interest. In essence; practical diplomacy demonstrates that states act in a pragmatic manner: pursuing short-term and long-term objectives in their external relations; mixing ethical and normative principles into what is essentially the country’s pursuit of self-interest,” said Dr. Mokhawa. According to the UB scholar, the nature and operation of diplomacy in a transformational international environment through the lenses provided by representational structures and processes not only imposes constraints on states but also provide opportunities.
On how Botswana can use bilateral diplomacy to position herself such that she can become an influential and respected player in highly competitive ad dynamic global affairs, Dr Mokhawa was of the view that International relations offer the best prospects for small or middle states to project their own identity and pursue national interests in a dynamic manner. This, she said, can be through using regional platforms to enhance their maneuvering space to widen the repertoire of activity and also that they can be able to better play the role of a catalyst (generating political activity aimed at a particular issue and that of a facilitator (planning and hosting meetings and setting priorities). According to Dr Mokhawa, once the state has built its niche it is able to target bilateral partners that are appropriate to that niche. “None the less, Botswana, as a small state needs to form coalitions or blocks. These are based on common ideology and shared interests, regional affinity. Bloc members engage in extensive ‘intrabloc diplomacy’ which is indispensable to achieving and maintaining cohesion and acting in unison,” she said. She also noted and recommended that Botswana could use the lack of power – political designs that have been characteristic to it to lead global movement to strengthen international rights and regulations.
She said Botswana should seriously consider pursuing rhythmic diplomacy, by considering an active role in organising international meetings, hosting and organisations. Business Botswana President Lekwalo Mosienyane who was part of the panel discussants said that it is desirable that both at government and the private sector levels there should be collective ownership of Botswana's external engagements in as far as creating opportunities and wealth for Batswana is concerned.
“When our envoys have the opportunity to tell the world what Botswana has to offer, let us speak with a much stronger voice, informed by private sector goals in the international arena,” he said. According to Mosienyane, Economics, trade and investment are the driving forces behind interstate relations and the extent to which countries relate or alliances are formed is determined by the degree to which they engage in trade and hence the more trade a country does the more leverage it can exert on its trading partners. He also observed that Botswana’s Private Sector is still growing and to a great extent dependent on Government.