The recent Stabroek News editorial on Guyana’s foreign policies titled, “One Man Diplomacy,” which focus mainly on the Arab Spring was obviously bias. Bias because SN saw nothing positive from the Guyana Government’s emphasis to expand Gulf ties. Besides, hammering away on the political and economic upheaval in Cyprus, Greece, Libya and Syria, and the fact that Guyana is “on the other side of the planet,” there was no analysis on the new push to forge Guyana Gulf/Arab ties (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait). SN concluded that Guyana is a poor developing country on the other side of the planet with nothing to offer Arab investors. Maybe that’s so, but time will tell.
Yet, a few issues SN raised were valid and hopefully the government of Guyana will review them, such as getting the best and brightest to represent Guyana in key posts and an end to the micro-managing of the foreign ministry. To date, the UN position is vacant and for years diplomats were not rotated. However, SN’s distaste for the PPP government clouds it review of Guyana Middle East ties. I would like to see SN review or compare the past PNC Middle East ties and that of the PPP today. Moreover, SN should inquire as to why South America / Middle East trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) have tripled in the last decade. Why today South America has stepped up its diplomatic presence in the Arab Gulf? Should Guyana “a small developing country on the other side of the planet that has little to offer in the way of investment opportunities” for Gulf Arab States not follow suit?
I work not for the Government of Guyana but have been an advocate of Guyana Middle East and Turkish ties, and in particular, Gulf ties (Saudi, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE). Guyana should seek new economic and political partners especially in this recession era. “Turkey’s economy grew at a rate of 9% last year, second only to China’s among the Group of 20. The economy is already the world’s 17th largest and growing income is beginning to percolate.” (Asia Times). According to former Indian diplomat, Bhadrakumar, Turkey has been one of IMF’s biggest borrowers – US$25 billion in the past decade and is poised to pay back its debts by 2013. “The contrast with Greece, a pristine European Union (EU) member country.”
It will take time to enhance bilateral and multi-lateral ties with the Middle East for Guyanese to see tangible benefits, and with the growing ties between the Middle East and South America, it can happen. Here is where SN failed to look at the bigger picture by neglecting to evaluate UNASUR/Arab political and economic ties.
Again, Guyana is not economically dependent on the Middle East nor has taken a political position to damage its foreign policy. The Middle East is going through a vibrant revolution in which US sponsored dictatorships are being challenged. Some of these dictatorships that stifle human reason I have condemned in past letters to the media, yet Guyana is realistic in maintaining friendly ties with them just like the US and the European Union have done.
On the issue of Dr. Odeen Ishmael, Stabroek News is of the opinion that he is being “wasted” in Kuwait. That may not be so because the Middle East is one of the most intricate regions of diplomacy. It takes an experienced and well-trained diplomat who is familiar with Middle East history, culture and politics to survive in that region. A slight slip of the tongue or a misunderstanding of the culture can be detrimental. And over time, Guyana ties with the GULF will expand when Dr. Ishmael is appointed Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. Hopefully, one of these nations will open a mission in Guyana. In the past Iraq, Egypt and Libya had embassies in Guyana during the PNC-Burnham regime.