H.E. Mr. Alejandro Simancas Marin, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to India, responds to Diplomatic and Business Editor Yogesh Sood on a range of issues that covers the historical and time-tested relations between India and Cuba.

By Yogesh Sood

India and Cuba have had excellent bilateral ties since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Please take us through the history of these ties...

India and Cuba established bilateral relations on January 12, 1960. India was one of the first countries to recognize the young Cuban Government, the result of the Revolution that triumphed on January 1, 1959. Both countries came from a long period of fight for national independence, so, from the first moment, the leaders of both countries identified themselves in the feeling of independence and in the search for a development model in line with the particular history, cultural and social identity of each one of our countries. Likewise, we share positions throughout this period in the international and multilateral arena against colonialism and the defense of the rights of peoples to independence and self-determination. This is how the foundations of cooperation, friendship, dialogue, respect and admiration are at the centre of bilateral ties. Certainly, the visit of Ernesto Che Guevara to India, just six months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, was a historic moment that opened the way for bilateral ties. Then in October 1959, Fidel Castro visited New York and, given the refusal of the United States Government to allow him to stay in the hotels designated for foreign official delegations, he stayed in the very humble “Teresa” hotel in the poor neighborhood of Harlem and Jawaharlal Nehru visited him there. About that meeting Fidel wrote: “The first person who came to see me was Prime Minister Nehru. I can never forget his magnificent gesture. I was 34 years of age, not widely known. I was tense. Nehru boosted my morale. My tension disappeared.”

Ever since Cuban Major Ernesto Guevera (Che) accompanied by five officials visited India in 1959, there have been several high-level visits between the two nations. Please talk us through some of the more recent ones...

Ernesto Che Guevara visited New Delhi and Kolkata in June 1959. Later, the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro came in 1973 and 1983. It is worth mentioning both Fidel and Ernesto Che Guevara soon identified with India’s independence spirit, and of course admired its culture, its history and its noble people. Since then, the exchange of high-level visits has been regular and relevant, reflecting the priority that both Governments give to relations. The current President of Cuba, Miguel Diaz Canel, visited India in 2015, at that time as First Vice President, and was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also several Cuban Ministers have traveled to Delhi, the last of them was the Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca in March of this year. While on the latest visits to Cuba, it is worth highlighting that of the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who visited Havana in 2016 to participate in the funeral of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro. The then President Ram Nath Kovind made an official visit to Cuba in 2018. After the pause imposed by COVID, we received the Secretary East of MEA Saurabh Kumar, at which time we restarted bilateral political consultations. This year we have had the honor of receiving in our country the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Culture Meenakashi Lekhi and the Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, both of whom were received by the President of the Republic, Miguel Diaz Canel.

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.

In all these efforts in favor of the global south, Cuba and India remain together as two active and committed protagonists. Cuba is reaffirming its commitment as president of the G77 and China, whose Summit we held last September in Havana, and which was attended by Secretary West Sanjay Verma, heading the Indian delegation.