Exclusive – Cuba attaches high priority to relations with India: Envoy

This has allowed us to enjoy a very favorable epidemiological situation today. Cuba is completely open and I must inform you that the vaccination certificates issued in India are recognized by our authorities; therefore the doors of Cuba are open to India.

Cuba attaches high priority to relations with India, we highly value the role it plays in defense of peace and we welcome the economic advances it has experienced in recent years, as well as its growing political and economic presence in the arena.
Cuba attaches high priority to relations with India, we highly value the role it plays in defense of peace and we welcome the economic advances it has experienced in recent years, as well as its growing political and economic presence in the arena. (File image)

India and Cuba enjoy a close relationship and based on Lines of Credit to that nation, several plants in the renewable energy sector have been installed. In 2019, development assistance was provided to Cuba and New Delhi made a donation of medical and agricultural equipment, medicines and tractors.

“Ernesto Che Guevara’s visit to New Delhi in 1959 and the meeting between Fidel Castro and Jawaharlal Nehru in New York in 1960, laid the foundations of friendship, dialogue and cooperation that exist today,” says Alejandro Simancas Marín, ambassador designate of Cuba to India.

A friend of the people and the leaders of India, Fidel Castro, the former Cuban president, visited India on two occasions in which he met with top leaders, especially Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He will always be remembered for his participation in the 1983 Non Aligned Movement Summit (NAM) in New Delhi.

On the occasion of the presentation of his credentials, the new ambassador of Cuba Alejandro Simancas Marín, talks with Huma Siddiqui, about his visión of enhancing relations with India.

Following are excerpts:

What is the relationship between the two countries?

First of all I would like to express my gratitude as Ambassador of a friendly country for this opportunity to address a few words to the Indian public. This moment represents a high honor for me, and especially a high commitment on the eve of our national holiday on January 1, when it will be the 63rd anniversary of the Cuban revolution and also on the eve of the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of relations between Cuba and India on January 12.

India’s defense of its sovereignty and national independence, as well as its struggle for unity and consensus, are concepts that we have admired and with which we fully identify.

Cuba and India have been together in the defense of the rights of peoples and underdeveloped countries that have fought for their independence, self-determination, non-interference in internal affairs, the defense of their culture and national identity and the search for their own models of both economic and political development for the sake of greater social justice.

Our relationships have developed in an upward direction on all levels. We have maintained close cooperation in international organizations and share the fundamental principle of multilateralism, the search for a more just and democratic international order. Cuba and India have been closely cooperating together within the Non-Aligned Movement, where we have shared fundamental values in the defense of international law and multilateralism. Cuba has supported India’s aspirations to become a member of the UN Security Council and recently to become a member of the Human Rights Council.

We also deeply appreciate the expressions of solidarity of the Government and the Indian people demanding the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that the United States Government has imposed on my country. This policy of blockade is a reflection of a supremacist mentality of power and hegemony that unfortunately is maintained and is condemned every year by the General Assembly of the United Nations, including the vote of India.

We have a positive bilateral political dialogue characterized by an outstanding exchange of visits, of which the moment of the hug between Fidel Castro and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi in 1983 has remained as a symbol, which has become the embrace between two friendly peoples. More recently, the visits to Havana by President Ram Nath Kovind in 2018 and President Miguel Diaz Canel to New Delhi in 2015 who was Vice-President then.

Cuba attaches high priority to relations with India, we highly value the role it plays in defense of peace and we welcome the economic advances it has experienced in recent years, as well as its growing political and economic presence in the arena.

How do you plan to strengthen relations?

Cuba continues strengthening the bilateral relationship with India, both at the level of political dialogue, the official exchange of visits, in the multilateral space, as well as a greater economic and commercial relationship. We also attach particular importance to increased cooperation in the education and cultural sectors.

What are the areas where the two countries can work together?

We are working on the organization of cultural activities in New Delhi in February through the visit of two important Cuban intellectuals and writers, as well as the exhibition of Cuban art. Likewise, we have invited Indian cultural institutions to participate in Cuba during these months and until March in the Havana Biennial and in the Havana Book Fair, which will be held in February.

We will maintain within our cooperation policy the spaces for Indian students to study medicine in Cuba. And, will continue to promote a greater practice and knowledge of Ayurveda and yoga in Cuba and we count on the support of India in this objective, in particular to continue developing the Ayurveda Center in Havana.

In the COVID times – are there any plans for both countries to work together on R&D related to the corona virus?

The COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone; once again our health system, the organizational capacity of our state and the resistance capacity of our people prevailed. Cuba has developed five vaccines against COVID, which has allowed today about 95 percent of the population to have completed the full vaccination cycle. Cuba is also the only country in which children up to two years old have been vaccinated.

This has allowed us to enjoy a very favorable epidemiological situation today. Cuba is completely open and I must inform you that the vaccination certificates issued in India are recognized by our authorities; therefore the doors of Cuba are open to India.

And, in the context of Covid, we appreciate the gestures of solidarity through donations that India has generously offered us.

Our institutions in the biopharmaceutical sector maintain commercial and economic relationships with similar ones in India and there is accumulated experience in this sector.

Undoubtedly, today there is greater potential in this sector that we must identify in order to take advantage of the experience of our countries in the control of the pandemic, the organization of the health system, the treatments that have been effective with monoclonal antibodies, the vaccines, the Cuban experience in international medical cooperation, etc.

We can also offer some Cuban products that are unique such as the vaccine against lung cancer, the treatment to avoid amputations of the diabetic foot, the treatment against vitiligo, among others.

Gold, crude oil, cigars are some of the products that have been coming to India – what is the status Post-COVID?

Our economic, commercial and financial relationships deserve special attention. We believe that the potential offered by both economies has not yet been fully exploited. Today the Cuban economy is more diversified and decentralized after the process of updating the economic model; and thus offers better options for Indian investors and bilateral trade.

Among the traditional Cuban products, rum and tobacco stand out, the best in the world and associated with our culture. We also offer products from the mining industry such as nickel, biopharmaceuticals, and agricultural products, among others.

Cuba also offers our strong experience in the service sector, tourism, international cooperation in both the health and education sectors.

We strongly promote Indian investments in Cuba. Feasibility studies have been carried out and offer practical opportunities for Indian companies in the renewable energy sectors, agriculture, sugar industry, light industry and food industry. The Mariel Special Economic Zone offers facilities for investors and serves as a gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean.

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