Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba to India, speaks to Diplomatist Editor-at-Large Alankar Srivastava on various aspects of Cuba-India bilateral relations. Excerpts...
Excellency, with India amongst the first countries to recognise Cuba after the 1959 Revolution, give us a sense of the value that the Cuban system attaches to its relationship with one of Asia’s top economies
Few weeks after the 1959 Revolution, Cuban and Indian leaders got in touch and established diplomatic relations in 1960.
Both the countries have warm and friendly relations, and they have cooperated in various international fora such as the UN, NAM, WTO, etc. We have received good support from India against the economic blockade by the US. In fact, India supports resolutions in the UN General Assembly calling for lifting of US sanctions against Cuba.
We share the concept of new international economic order. There is a historical relation of romanticism as good friends. We support India's inclusion as a permanent member in the restructured UN Security Council, and will continue the relations at the bilateral level.
Excellency, shed some light on the Cuban Economic Model. What are the business and investment opportunities for Indian firms in Cuba?
We must understand that the world has changed; Cuba and India have also changed.
Biotech is one area where we can complement each other. There are tremendous opportunities for Indian companies in new renewable energy, Information Technology (IT), agriculture, and healthcare.
Cuba has the finest healthcare system; we have 1 doctor for every 130 Cubans. India and Cuba must work together. More and more Indian companies should invest in Cuba.
How is Cuba meeting its energy needs?
Eighty percent of oil-based needs are imported by Cuba. We need modern technology and investment to drill for oil deep in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cuba is trying to reduce dependence on oil, and move to renewables. By 2030, our target is to meet 20 percent of energy needs from renewables. India has experience and technology to help us in solar, wind, and biomass.
It’s been 10 years since the Agreement on Sports Cooperation was signed between Cuba and India. How do you look back?
Cuba has world’s best boxers. The Agreement is more than 10 years old, though too little has been achieved. We must join hands in the promotion of athletics, judo, and grass hockey. We must talk and negotiate more.
Despite good and long political relations, Indians have little knowledge of Cuba. Given the popularity of Indian culture in Cuba, do you agree that cultural diplomacy can take the relationship to the next level?
India has a rich culture and heritage. Cubans love Indian culture. We love music, dance, art, and painting. Culture is the fundamental part of our two nations.
Last but certainly not least – your thoughts on Cuba’s relationship with the US.
The economic blockade by the US has badly hit the relations between the two countries:
- We cannot export our goods to US
- US cannot export goods to Cuba
- No financial support to Cuba by US enterprises
- No transaction in US dollar
- Americans cannot visit Cuba as tourists
- No American company located in third country can have business with Cuba
US President Barack Obama realises that the policy of blockade has failed. I hope that President-elect Donald Trump will continue with Obama’s policies.