Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture-Meenakashi Lekhi Ji,
Ambassador Alejandro Simancas Marin,
Amb. of Cuba to India,
Amb. Bhaskar Balakrishnan,
Prof. Sonya Surabhi Gupta,
Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Member of the Diplomatic Corps and all Guests, a very warm welcome to Sapru House for today’s Panel Discussion on India-Cuba Relations - Present Trajectory and the way forward.
Earlier this year, in January, Minister Lekhi, had a successful and a productive visit to Cuba. She called on President H.E. Miguel Diaz-Canel; she was received by Speaker of Cuban Parliament, and had meetings with the Cuban Minister of External Relations and Minister of Culture. We are honoured that Minister Meenakashi Lekhi agreed to deliver the Key Note Address today, which would be extremely valuable in setting the tone for the Panel Discussion.
This year marks 50 years since the first visit of Fidel Castro to India in 1973. Significantly, this year the two countries are chairing multilateral organisations, India is the Chair of G-20 and Cuba of G-77.
Channelling the aspirations of the Global South into the G-20 discourse was central to India’s Presidency. Prior to the G-20 Summit, Prime Minister Modi hosted the Voice of the Global South Summit, in which 125 countries participated. The purpose was that after these consultations, India would mainstream the interests and concerns of the Global South into G-20, which eventually found expression in the G20 New Delhi Leaders Declaration. Furthermore, African Union was included as a Member of G-20. India a trusted partner country in the community of the Global South. Similarly, at the G-77 Summit held in Cuba, the key focus was on the interests of the Global South, under the theme current challenges of development, Role of Sciences, Technology and Innovation.
India and Cuba have also articulated in their respective foreign policies, the importance of multilateralism; and in this context, have worked together in the UN and other international bodies on several economic, environment and developmental issues.
Bilaterally, since the establishment of diplomatic relations, over the last 60 years a number of visits have consolidated our friendship both in the political and the economic spheres. Fidel Castro’s visit in 1973 and in 1983 are landmark visits in our bilateral relations. In more recent times, the visit of the President of India to Cuba in 2018 gave impetus to our ties.
India is a long-standing development partner of Cuba. India’s ITEC Programme has been received well in Cuba and has also contributed to building, people to people contacts. The two countries have worked together in areas of renewable energy and agriculture.
In 2020, during the first wave of COVID 19 Pandemic, India provided medicines and other protective medical gear to Cuba. More recently, Panacea pharmaceutical company donated doses of pentavalent vaccines to Cuba which had been announced by Minister Meenakashi Lekhi during her official visit to Cuba in January 2023. Interest in Ayurveda and Indian Naturopathy is also increasing in Cuba.
The present trajectory is good. For our future bilateral relations, opportunities exist in healthcare and pharma, biotechnology, innovation and technology as also culture.
The panel discussion would be useful in identifying future pathways for the relationship.