Citizens have every right to criticise the foreign policy trajectory of their Government, especially when they have good reasons to believe that diversions from established principles, as well as breaches of treaties, have occurred. As a matter of fact, it may be considered an obligation on citizens to point out the flaws and dangers in foreign policy positions.
However, because every government must make foreign markets, security arrangements, geopolitical concerns and cooperation important considerations of their foreign policy ethos, it can be difficult sometimes to fully understand the purpose of a foreign policy action, or to see the rationale behind a certain change in direction.
This inability was manifested a few days ago when a writer for Kaieteur News deemed the PPP/C “clueless when it comes to foreign policy.” The seeming blunders that the PPP/C is guilty of have been attributed to inadequate knowledge of the ideological and political underpinnings of the party on the part of its leadership. The writer suggested that this so-called paucity of knowledge has catapulted the leadership of the party into the orbit of Western Neo-liberalism, causing them to abandon the working-class ethos of the party.
The writer took umbrage at President Irfaan Ali allowing Michael Pompeo, operating out of Guyana, to characterise China’s assistance to Guyana as being motivated by a “strings attached” philosophy, and asserted that Pompeo’s behaviour was pompous and insulting.
Unfortunately, representatives of powerful nations are known to have behaved pompously in their relationships with small countries. However, the “with strings attached” characterisation of China is not far-fetched. In this context, the phrase “with no strings attached” simply means that Guyana will not be obligated to do anything in return for China.
The Government of Guyana is too sagacious not to know that obligations are always entailed. It needs to be pointed out that no country operates under the “no strings attached” modus operandi at this level. The United States of America is no exception to this rule. While democratic considerations have played a central role in the US foreign policy, geopolitical factors have often trumped democratic principles. Citizens of Guyana have often alluded to this disparagingly. However, Guyanese of today look upon the United States as a great benefactor, remembering its crucial role in ousting an undemocratic party from power and enabling a democratically elected party to form the Government.
However, to use an innocuous situation like this to label the Government’s foreign policy as inept is pure fantasy. To imply that Pompeo’s presence and statements amount to capitulation to Neo-liberalism is misleading, to say the least.
The Government of Guyana takes a holistic approach to foreign policy, driven by its commitment to eliminate poverty, build infrastructure, strengthen democratic institutions, and work with global partners to secure a safer and better world.
In today’s volatile world, the latter sometimes requires a shift in paradigm, which brings us to the question of Guyana’s withdrawal from its recognition of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). To claim that Guyana’s withdrawal of its recognition is due to pressure from the US is frightfully simplistic. The writer omitted to mention that Guyana is among 164 countries that do not recognise SADR.
The author also failed to mention that Guyana’s decision was based on provocative, disruptive and illegal actions by SADR’s militias.
Another pertinent fact is that Guyana has fully committed to working under the umbrella of the United Nations to find a solution to the conflict.
The policy of courting foreign investments in order to build the nation, so that all its citizens can benefit from its enormous resources, is a master stroke of foreign policy, not a simplistic approach as implied by the writer. And forging with the United States an alliance that would guarantee Guyana’s territorial integrity and enhance its ability to fight drug trafficking is an outstandingly skillful foreign policy move, as opposed to one built on naivety, as the author seemed to have implied.
Of course, all foreign policy decisions must be taken against the backdrop of the historical tendency of foreign nations to reap the lion’s share of returns from their investments in the country. Disregarding this historical fact would indeed lead to blunders in foreign policy decisions, and would be a poor reflection on leadership. However, there is nothing to suggest that the PPP is guilty of such a myopic approach.
Undergirding Guyana’s foreign policy decisions is the principle of mutuality. Some are, however, tempted to see this as a digression from the ideological underpinnings of the party, which historically have viewed the West as the nemesis of developing countries, and for good reasons. The goal of the party is, and always was, the upliftment of the working class and the elimination of inequality. To realise this, it cannot be averse to the United States playing a prominent part.
While Guyana needs to be wary of the fetishisation of the US, there is no way of precluding the United States from taking an active role in Guyana’s affairs. The keenness with which the Government is engaging the United States on procuring its help can easily be mistaken for an obsession with Neo-liberalism.
Sheik M Ayube