Guyana talks with India on purchasing aircraft for GDF, developing Silica City

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Coming out of President Dr Irfaan Ali’s visit to India, there are a number of areas and opportunities not only for Government-to-Government collaboration but also private sector to private sector collaboration.

There are so many opportunities, in fact, that a working group will be set up between the two countries to coordinate the necessary follow-ups.

This was revealed by President Dr Irfaan Ali, in a press conference at State House on Tuesday during which he shared the head table with Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd and a number of private sector representatives.

According to the President, the need for two working groups was jointly decided between him and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He said India has already been written to propose names for Guyana’s side. The working group, according to Ali, will follow the Organisation of American States (OAS) model.

“The only difference here is that in the working group, we’ll be including the private sector from both India and Guyana. Because there’s a lot of follow-up and collaboration that is required from the side of the private sector.”

“The working group will commence work almost instantly, to push this agenda. In Guyana for example in agriculture, Minister Zulfikar Mustapha will be a part of the working group looking at agriculture and all we discussed,” he said.

When it comes to farming, former Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy would be on the working group as well. Minister within the Public Works Ministry Deodat Indar will meanwhile be on the working group for technology and Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat, for energy.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond will be on the working group for hyperbaric and wellness centre, and Public Service Minister Sonia Parag for human resource capacity building. For defence, President Ali, Chief of Staff Brigadier Godfrey Bess, and National Security Advisor Captain (retired) Gerry Gouveia will be on the working group.

According to President Ali, agriculture and food production were among the major topics discussed between him, the Indian Prime Minister, and also Indian President Droupadi Murmu. In terms of agriculture, possible Indian support for Guyana’s efforts to resuscitate the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was discussed. Other areas that were on the agenda included security, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), renewable energy and oil and gas.

“In the meeting with Prime Minister Modi, we discussed many issues in our shared vision and commitment to various global topics including climate change, food security, energy security, human resource development and building out a platform through which we can create a better global environment.”

Discussions were also about ways in which India can provide support to Guyana, for its vision of building out Silica City.

According to the President, one possibility from those discussions is India sending its urban planners to help with developing Silica City.

News has already emerged that Guyana and India are exploring ways in which India, one of only a handful of nuclear-armed countries, can help boost the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). The purchase of hardware and military equipment is reportedly on the table.

In fact, during his press conference, President Ali confirmed that they are in talks to purchase a Dornier 228 aircraft made in India.

According to Ali, India has proposed to supply not only the aircraft but training, maintenance and pertinent technology.

“The aircraft, we’ve been sending technical teams. You know the Skyvan, one is already out of production and one we have limited hours on. So, the replacement aircraft we’ve been looking at, one of them is the Dornier. They are now working at the technical level,” the President said.

“I know some of the things have been going on at a technical level, I know some of the things going on now with the civil aviation authority of Guyana with the civil aviation authority of India. Then there’s a technical team that will go to make an assessment. And then we’ll get recommendations out of that.”

Nor is the GDF the only state security agency in which talks were centred. According to Ali, India also had discussions with Guyana on supporting the Guyana Police Force (GPF), when it comes to technology, equipment and training.

President Ali also confirmed that India is interested in purchasing Guyana’s oil on a long-term basis. While he noted that the matter is still in the discussion phase, President Ali also noted that India has expressed an interest in Guyana’s oil blocks which are currently up for auction. However, he stressed that the oil blocks are open for everyone to bid on… not just Indian companies.

“We are encouraging every single company. Let me say this very clearly – Guyanese company, any company, you want to be part of the auction please come up. Any Government in any part of the world, any company in any part of the world, you are free to be a part of the auction,” President Ali said.

“There was a clear undertaking that the private sector of India in the oil and gas sector will be encouraged to participate in that auction. We also encouraged the Government of India to have their agency participate directly in the auction also because we would like to see as many people, if every Government that is interested in participating, participate in the auction, participate, we would welcome it, we would love it,” the President added.