After a five-year gap, India and Cuba will be again having a high-level ministerial contact, when External Affairs Minister S M Krishna travels to the island nation, hoping to improve business and energy ties.
Krishna will be in Havana from June 15-17, straight from the US after taking part in the India-US strategic dialogue.
In a way, the visit demonstrates how far India has drifted away from Cuba over the years, while, on the other hand, New Delhi has become closer to its continental and ideological rival, the US.
This is in sharp contrast to when India and Cuba had been on the same side of the Cold War divide, with Fidel Castro having a well-known rapport with the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, especially as part of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Krishna’s visit is a reciprocal trip following that of the then Cuban foreign minister Felipe Roque.
He will hold discussions with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and will call on President Raul Castro. “We are also trying to arrange a meeting with former President Fidel Castro, but it’s not yet confirmed,” said a senior MEA official.
Besides, Krishna will also be chairing the meeting of Indian ambassadors posted in the Latin American region on June 16-17.
The state-run ONGC Videsh Limited is the biggest Indian presence in Cuba, having invested $60 million in eight offshore blocks. In six blocks, OVL has a 30 per cent participating interests, with Repsol-YPF being the operator. According to sources, OVL has to take a call on whether to start drilling in its blocks, with a deadline set by the Cuban government of September this year. Recently, Spanish company Repsol announced that there was no oil in its initial exploration in Jaguey 9 field, where OVL also has its presence. But Cuba had claimed that Repsol’s findings were prejudiced, as Cuba had supported Argentina’s confiscation of Repsol subsidiary YPF. “We also want to be in Cuba, when the government has been trying to open up some of their sectors, like tourism to overseas investment,” said the official.
On the political side, India has always raised its voice against the US embargo on Cuba. But, recently, for example on Syria, India and Syria have been on opposing camps.