RUSSIA, BOTSWANA CELEBRATE GOLDEN JUBILEE OF BILATERAL RELATIONS MAR-6TH
By Ernest MoloiThe Russian embassy in Gaborone celebrates Russia Diplomacy Day today (Friday) on the back of a great feat Moscow and Gaborone struck last year.
It was on the sidelines of the XXIII Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) that Russia’s foreign minister Siegiev Lavrov signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Exemption of the Visa Requirements for the Nationals of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Botswana with his Botswana counterpart, Dr Unity Dow.
Happily, the agreement came into force last year October paving way for the peoples and business communities of the two countries to interact with each other more freely and comfortably.
This Agreement means that the Botswana contingent of the 17000-strong African student body in Russia is exempted from visa requirements when they travel between the two countries.
The Russian diplomacy day commemoration this year is also special in that Russia and Botswana will be commemorating the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of their bilateral relations on March 6th this year. Notwithstanding the cordial relations between the two countries, Moscow seems ambivalent with respect to Botswana’s position regarding the establishment of an Embassy Office in Russia. At present Botswana’s Mission in Switzerland manned by Ambassador Chandapiwa Nteta, is accredited to Russia. Diplomatic sources at Botswana’s Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation however maintain that Russia is “high” on Botswana’s agenda but that the establishment of an embassy is held back by “budgetary constraints”.
In fact this was the same answer that Minister Dow gave Members of Parliament last year when she presented to the Committee of Supply.
Speaking at last year’s Diplomacy Day commemoration, Russian Ambassador to Botswana Victor Sibilev described Africa as an “important partner” for Russia, an “active participant in the emerging polycentric architecture of the world order”. He said Russian diplomats rely on the accumulated experience of productive cooperation with Africa as they seek to pursue a consistent policy for deepening the range of Russia-Africa relations, based on the principles of international law, equality, and respect for the mutual interests.
It also emerged from the first Russia-Africa Economic Forum and Summit that was held in Sichi, Russia last year October that Russia’s trade with African states grew more than 17 percent in 2018 and exceeded US$20 billion. Moscow aims to bring this trade level to reach at least US$40 billion, which prospects appear likely considering that contracts worth more US$12, 5 billion were signed with African states on the sidelines of the Sochi Summit. Turning to Botswana, Ambassador Sibilev said that cooperation between Moscow and Gaborone has aimed at deepening political dialogue and stepping up mutually beneficial ties in the trade, economic, humanitarian and other spheres, based on the firm foundations of traditional friendship between Russia and Botswana.He said both sides have developed top-level political dialogue, promoting inter-parliamentary contacts and expanding cooperation between foreign ministries. Both countries also continue to develop education and cultural exchanges, for example, every year over 50 students go to Russia for studying at Russian universities, which are renowned for offering quality education at affordsable prices. A diplomatic source told Botswana Guardian that Botswana sends many private sponsored students to Russia than any other country. Moreover, the Russian Embassy in Gaborone gives young politicians and diplomats the chance to establish contacts with their Russian counterparts within the programme “New Generation”. Ambassador Sibilev explained that the Russian Diplomacy Day was established by the Presidential Decree in 2002 to commemorate the founding of the Russian Diplomatic Service in 1549. It is observed every year on the 10th of February, a date closely associated with the history of Russia’s first foreign affairs agency - the Ambassadorial Department (or “Posolsky Prikaz” in Russian). It was first mentioned in official chronicles on February 10th, 1549.