It is a great honor for me to share this special moment with all of you.
I would like first of all to thank the Minister of State Smt. Meenakashi Lekhi, who kindly always finds a moment of her precious time to be with us.
I also thank Ambassador Vijay Thakur Singh, Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs, who together with his staff supported this important initiative.
Of course my gratitude to all of you, colleague and friends, for being here with us.
Today we celebrate and project our bilateral relations into the future and we do so taking as the pretext the 50th anniversary of the first visit of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro to India in September 11 and 12, 1973. Later he made a brief transit on September 17 in Kolkata coming from Vietnam.
India was one of the first countries to recognize the young Cuban revolutionary government and Cubans soon identified with India's independence spirit, and of course admired its culture, its history and its noble people.
We cannot forget our common history, nor those who built our relationships and who were the first to open the path of friendship, collaboration, mutual respect, solidarity, dialogue; and all on the basis of shared principles and values, that have lead us together to defend the noblest causes in the world.
In those years when Fidel visited India, a new world order was emerging, fighting against colonialism and neocolonialism, and for the independence, the right to development of the countries of the south.
The movement of non-aligned countries played a fundamental role and Cuba and India had common and relevant actions in this context.
From those years the world had witnessed radical changes, but Cuba and India continue to share and defend the same values and principles in the international and multilateral arena and that have to do with the defense of international law, peace, international stability, the necessity of a more just and equitable world for all, the strengthening of multilateralism, the democratization of the United Nations system, and of course of the security council.
Today the countries of the South continue to fight to rid themselves of all the lags of colonialism and underdevelopment and achieve the goals of sustainable development.
In all this battle in favor of the global south, Cuba and India remain together as two active and committed protagonists.
We have both reaffirmed support for the global south, for solidarity with these countries, and south-south cooperation: India is giving a greater voice to the global south within the framework of its presidency of the G20 and Cuba reaffirming its commitment as president of the G77 and China, whose Summit we held ten days ago in Havana, and which was attended by Secretary West Sanjay Verma, heading the indian delegation.
South-south collaboration represents a necessary space in which both countries can do a lot together for the benefit of others. To this end, Cuba offers its vast experience of international solidarity in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean; and its human resources in the sectors of medicine, education and construction.
We have broad agreement on the international and multilateral issues, which has led to traditional mutual support in many aspects of the international agenda, and in key organizations such as the General Assembly, the human rights council, and of course in the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement and Group 77 and China.
An example of the above has been our support to India candidacy for the Security Council.
That is why we celebrate India's growing economic and political role in the international sphere.
For my country, which suffers a criminal and long blockade, international solidarity has been particularly valuable and India has always been in the side of justice by joining the United Nations General Assembly resolution demanding the end of the blockade. As expressed by the representative of India in the United Nations “the continued existence of this embargo undermines multilateralism. The Embargo have the effect of impeding the full achievement of economic and social development.” It is the quote from the Indian representative.
So, In June 2022, Cuba and India resumed the bilateral political dialogue through the visit to Havana of Eastern Secretary Saurabh Kumar; and then this year we held consultations on multilateral issues with the visit of the Joint Secretary Prakash Gupta. In our opinion, this has been a very useful and beneficial mechanism that we want to reinforce and that has highlighted the convergence of many point of the agenda.
Since Fidel's visit in 1973, the exchange of visits has been relevant. Fidel returned to India in 1983 and in Havana he welcomed all the Indian personalities who visited us with a genuine feeling of friendship.
The then Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh led the Indian delegation to Fidel's funeral in 2016, while the then President Ram Nath Covind visited Cuba in 2018 and paid tribute to Fidel at the Santiago de Cuba cemetery.
More recently, I must mention the visit last January of the Honorable Minister of State Smt. Meenakashi Lekhi, who was received by our President Miguel Diaz Canel.
Likewise, our President Miguel Diaz Canel visited India in 2015, then as first Vice President, and met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two met again last August in South Africa.
Cuba has always seen India as a friendly country, with which, as I said, we share many values and aspirations, which is why the bilateral relationship has been and is today a priority for my Government.
We have the objective of continuing to expand the official exchange and create conditions for the highest-level authorities of the Government and the Cuban state to visit India. We are ready for it.
The bilateral trade and economic exchange has been lagging behind and we are working hard together to facilitate its increase.
In commercial exchange we work to bring companies from both countries closer together and eliminate intermediaries that make this process more expensive and discouraged.
We work to establish direct banking relations between the Central Bank of Cuba and the Reserve Bank of India and to reduce the extraterritorial risks imposed on us by the financial blockade of the United States. In this objective, we consider it favorable the possibility of gradually introducing the Indian rupee as a means of payment.
We appreciate the facilities created to import Indian rice and we have decided to regularize this and expand these purchases.
We also appreciate the facilities through Eximbank to execute economic projects in Cuba in the fertilizer sector, agriculture, medicine and in renewable energy.
Additionally, we have a close cooperative relationship with NTPC that is supporting the execution of a project of more than 1000mw.
We are proud founder members of the International Solar Alliance and have an active and fruitful cooperative relationship.
All this has made India a strategic partner for us in the renewable energy sector.
Furthermore, I can announce our interest in joining The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the initiative to insert and develop millet in Cuba.
We have a dynamic relationship in the biopharmaceutical industry sector, where Cuba offers great potential with high development and research capabilities. Suffice it to say that we have the only vaccines against Covid in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, we believe that this still does not respond to the potential. We believe that there are high capacities for India to become a relevant actor in our economic development plan.
We hope and work to see Indian companies in the tourism sector, mining, essentially nickel and gold, agriculture, the sugar cane industry, the food processing industry, electronics, electric vehicles and the information and technology industry.
I take advantage of this panel to promote all the investment options and facilities offered by the special economic zone of Mariel and the port of Mariel, one of the most modern in the region, as well as to make an advertisement for the next international fair in Havana, from November 6 to 11 and call on Indian companies to participate and enrich the Indian pavilion that is being organized by the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.
Special mention and thanks go to the ITEC scholarships, which have been a very useful mechanism and we will continue to take advantage.
On the other hand, we have a favorable legal framework in the field of health, Ayurvedic medicine, education, culture and that we wish to put into operation and take advantage of it for mutual benefit.
Cuba is a country with a high level of education and culture, therefore, Cubans have the capacity to know, understand well and admire Indian history and culture. In this way, we aspire to expand our cultural exchange and offer all the conditions for the creation of an Indian cultural center in Havana that includes all aspects of Indian culture.
We have taken steps with the Ministry of Ayush and the government of Kerala to continue updating the Havana Panchakarma Center, and, very importantly, undertake collaboration with the All India Institute of Ayurveda to support the training of medical students in Cuba.
On the academic level, I would like just to mention our interest to finalize the legal framework between this center, the ICWA and the International Policy Research Center in Havana, as well as putting into operation the cooperation between the Institute of International Relations of Havana and the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service.
By attaching importance to dialogue between both parliaments, I would like to mention the existence of a parliamentary group of friendship with India in our national assembly.
On the other hand, Cuba is present in the development of Indian sports with the presence of several coaches, including 2 Olympic champions and the Cuban coach of the boxing team with relevant results for India.
Tourism is Cuba's main industry and I can mention as an example that one Indian company currently manages nine hotels in Cuba.
We are developing a new strategy in this sectorin order to créate facilities for Indians to enjoy the wonder city that is Havana, the most beautiful beaches in the world and the hospitality of the Cuban people.
The relationship between our peoples, directly and through different organizations, has a high meaning. Here are organizations and friends with a long history and to whom we have a feeling of gratitude.
For example, Professor Sonya Gupta has been awarded the friendship medal by the Cuban government, the organization Eight Goal One Foundation does a beautiful job to publicize the work of Jose Marti and its president Rami Sing heads the jury for the Unesco Jose Marti award.
The national solidarity committee with Cuba is a historical and organic organization to which we owe eternal gratitude.
Everyone has shown permanent support in our demand to lift the blockade, projects and donations of all kinds have been sent to support Cuba.
During these days we have received multiple messages of solidarity in the face of the attack that the Cuban Embassy in Washington suffered just two days ago that we consider terroristic and that adds to the one that happened three years against the same embassy.
At this point, I must mention that All of this occurs in the country from which all types of terrorism against Cuba have been organized. To make matters worse, the same country has included Cuba into an infamous blacklist accusing us of terrorism.
It is all part of the same policy of blockade, aggression and hatred that stimulates these actions.
We have always found friendship and solidarity in the Indian people and to the same extent they will find it multiplied in the grateful Cuban people.
Today we pay tribute to Fidel Castro and his contribution to our bilateral relations.
As you know Fidel, like Cubans, we tend to talk for long hours. I think Fidel still holds the record for the longest speech.
But, I should not emulate Fidel, and in respect to Fidel, the program and the illustrious colleagues who accompany me.
As you can see, there are many opportunities, needs and challenges that are open ahead of us, and all that remains is to work together to materialize our will to project bilateral ties into the future.
And we must do them together because we are coming from the same precept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam "The World Is One Family", as Jose Marti, the national hero of Cuba, said, homeland is humanity.