INDIA has been seen as an increasingly important international partner for Guyana and the relationship between the two countries will be strengthened even further as the two countries deepen trade relations.
During an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd, told the Guyana Chronicle that the government, since assuming office has sought to “reconnect” with the South Asian country.
“Previously, India was seen as one of Guyana’s foremost international partners as the two countries shared strong bilateral relations. India and Guyana have had very strong relations in the past, not only from a trade perspective, but culturally, but we intend to continue working on deepening that relationship that we enjoy.
“Now that we are embarking on our emerging oil-and-gas sector, I think our relations with India would become even stronger from a trade perspective,” Minister Todd highlighted, adding: “India has already committed to us [on] major projects, so I can see our relations deepening over the years.”
The major projects India has committed to include funding for infrastructural development, scholarships for Guyanese and the provision of technical services in areas of development that Guyana does not yet have capacity.
Last November, Indian High Commissioner Dr K J Srinivasa told this newspaper that the Government of India is willing to purchase Guyana’s share of oil lifts at the market value, annually, through a government-to-government agreement.
“India is an energy-hungry nation and 85 per cent of our petroleum requirements are imported. So we would love to work with the Government of Guyana to import oil, if possible, from Guyana on a long-term basis, and Guyana gets a secured buyer for all its oil annually,” the High Commissioner said.
Furthermore, the Dr Srinivasa related that Indian companies such as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Bharrat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) – all state-owned companies – would be interested in buying crude from Guyana in the future.
Minister Todd said that engagements and the potential agreement between India and Guyana for purchase of the oil would occur through the Ministry of Natural Resources, headed by Minister Vickram Bharrat.
Nevertheless, Todd contended, “They understand Guyana well and our needs.” He also gave the assurance that the two countries will be able to work together for the mutual development of the peoples of both countries.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, India, which is known as a leading supplier of vaccines worldwide, has been developing vaccines to immunise persons against this novel coronavirus; and the country has several vaccine candidates which are at various stages of development.
COVID-19 immunisation is ongoing in the South Asian country and the government has currently based its vaccination programme on two approved vaccines: COVISHIELD, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which is produced by Serum Institute of India, and COVAXIN, an indigenously produced vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad and the Indian Council for Medical Research.
Guyana’s vaccination rollout for COVID-19 is expected in the coming months, but the country is not yet sure which vaccine it will be receiving. Guyana has signed up with the COVAX facility, a global initiative geared at accelerating the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and then providing them in a guaranteed rapid, fair and equitable manner to those countries which need them. Through this arrangement, Guyana will receive its first set of vaccines which will be administered to healthcare workers and elderly individuals with comorbidities (other underlying diseases).
Though signing up with COVAX carries a fee, Guyana’s costs are being met through GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which is coordinating COVAX, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)
The Guyana Chronicle understands, however, that GAVI, the WHO and the Gates Foundation all source vaccines in bulk from India. The country has the largest number of manufacturers who have been prequalified by WHO for international procurement for low and middle-income countries and most of these vaccines are for the global South.
When asked about whether Guyana will leverage its relationship with India for these vaccines, Minister Todd said the country is exploring avenues for aid and the purchasing of vaccines. This may include engaging bilateral partners, such as India.