Using oil to diversify Guyana’s foreign policy

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By Wazim Mowla

News Americas, WASHINGTON, DC, Fri July 16, 2021: Amid growing U.S. rhetoric about competing with China in Latin America and the Caribbean, Guyana is expected to use its new oil reserves to diversify its foreign relations. This process should start with India, which in recent months has shown interest in strengthening ties with Guyana in all sectors, starting with oil. It will be important for Guyana to capitalize on this opportunity as it navigates its new place on the world stage, especially when it comes to the US-China dynamic.

Since President Ali took office in August 2020, Guyana has found itself in the midst of US-Chinese competition. First, when former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Guyana in December 2020, he issued a warning regarding engagement with China. And second, the sudden opening and closing of the Taiwan investment office in February 2021 drew strong statements from U.S. and Chinese officials, each accusing the other of influencing Guyana’s decision. In both cases, US and Chinese officials were less focused on Guyanese interests and more on asserting geopolitical influence.

Therefore, as an emerging power in the Western Hemisphere, it is important that Guyana develops a foreign policy plan that does not depend on the idea that the United States and China are the world’s leading powers. Although both dominate the headlines, leading many analysts and leaders to presume the world is entering another Cold War atmosphere, the international community is instead moving towards a greater emphasis on regional powers and, by extension, regionalism. This means that in its own hemisphere, Guyana should look to Mexico and Brazil, and across the Atlantic, to the African Union, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and the India, among others.

Fortunately for Guyana, it has the natural resource (oil) that will attract new regional players to Guyana’s shores and encourage older people, like India, to pay more attention to the country than in recent times. For example, with oil as its main interest, India has recently increased its engagement with Guyana since President Ali took office. Shortly after taking office, the Indian government pledged US $ 1 million to Guyana to support COVID-19 efforts and earlier this year donated much-needed vaccines to the country. In addition to pandemic aid, India offered to support Guyana in its onshore gas project, help reopen sugar plantations, offer scholarships to Guyanese students and noted its intention to invest. in infrastructure projects.

India’s interests and recent activity in Guyana are due to the latter’s oil and gas wealth. One example is India’s indication that it wants to secure a long-term deal for the supply of crude from Guyana, which has so far resulted in the extraction of one million barrels of Guyanese oil by the state-owned Indian Oil Corporation Limited. This is unlikely to be the last time India’s state-owned company will look for oil in Guyana, as the country is the world’s third-largest consumer of crude and its demand for oil has increased over the past 7 years. With a probable long-term partner in India, what Guyana does with these strengthened ties is vital for the future of its foreign policy and its citizens.

As already noted, India’s attention has positive effects for other sectors of Guyanese economy and its people, which may translate into future economic and foreign political victories. Indian interest and implications are likely to continue, putting Guyana in a position to promote additional Guyanese products in the Indian market, increase educational exchange, and create greater self-reliance amidst American competition. Chinese. For example, access to Indian markets can facilitate Guyanese exports of sugar and rice. At the same time, Guyana can strengthen its educational ties with India, especially as the former seeks to fill gaps in much needed skills, of which India’s globally-ranked technical schools can be useful.

Finally, closer ties with India can provide Guyana with additional regional power to lean on if US-China tensions escalate. India has its own rivalry with China, although it is mainly limited to the Asian continent. But as the Indian economy grows, competition with China could overtake its current geographic area and migrate across the Atlantic. Moreover, India provides Guyana with a socio-economic model, in terms of ethnic relations, closer to its own than to that of the United States. While India’s treatment of certain religions and ethnicities has been criticized recently, Guyana can look to the country for small successes that have historically existed.

These links, and more broadly, the fact of engaging with different regional powers place Guyana in a better position to face the consequences.[A1] that typically affect small states when two economic powers compete. Just as the Guyanese government needs to diversify its economy to reduce its dependence on natural resources, so too does foreign policy – it shouldn’t be tied to the United States or China and the dynamics between the countries. of them. This does not mean that Guyana should disengage from the United States and China, as both are influential in international relations and are important economic partners, but these countries are unlikely to put Guyanese interests ahead. theirs.

This means that Guyana must be innovative and forward-thinking in its foreign policy. A first step is to cement lasting ties with India. As they continue to materialize for Guyanese gain, President Ali should look to other regional powers to replicate this pattern. The more Guyana engages regional players, the better it is for the country in the short and long term, putting it in a better position to be master of its own destiny.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wazim Mowla is a Guyanese American and Deputy Director of the Caribbean Initiative at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council. Mowla is also a non-resident scholar at the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at Florida International University.


[A1]Right word? Impacts perhaps?


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