An empty chair at Bishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town brought into sharp focus China’s influence over governments in Africa. The Dalai Lama was supposed to occupy the chair. Both he and Tutu are religious leaders whose influence extends far beyond their congregations, symbolized by their respective Nobel peace prizes.
Chinese discomfort over the Dalai Lama travelling overseas is supposed to have led the South?African? government to deny him a visa in time, according to AFP. Naturally, Tutu had harsh words for the Jacob Zuma administration.
That the government with its anti-apartheid legacy kept the Tibetan leader away shows the extent of China’s sway over that part of the world, which goes to show that its interest in Africa is not just economic, but highly political. There are undoubtedly lessons for India here, but perhaps this is something the Africans need to think about. There really is no such thing as a free meal.