Today marks the third death anniversary of Cuban revolutionary and former President Fidel Castro. The relationship between Cuba and India has been well registered in the past, since the time of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru.
India was one of the first countries to recognise Fidel Castro's socialist government after the Cuban revolution in which Castro and Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara overthrew the authoritarian government of then President Fulgencio Batista.
India's historical association with Fidel Castro solidified the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which was largely conceived by former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Former Vice-President Hamid Ansari who was the highest profile leader from India to go to Havana and meet Fidel Castro, in October 2013, recalled the former Cuban president as “the star at the NAM summit”.
Since the establishment of the Cuban socialist government led by Fidel Castro in 1959, there have been many important bilateral visits, the first of which was immediately after the Cuban Revolution when then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru received Che Guevara in Delhi, after which Nehru met President Fidel Castro in New York at the NAM summit in 1960. The camaraderie between them was famous.
Castro had narrated his experience in a media interview: “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.”
Thereafter, in 1985, PM Rajiv Gandhi and in 2006, PM Manmohan Singh have visited Cuba. Castro himself visited India in 1973 and 1983, both times when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.
He had said, “The maturity of India, its unconditional adherence to the principles which lay at the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement give us the assurances that under the wise leadership of Indira Gandhi [the former Prime Minister of India], the non-aligned countries will continue advancing in their inalienable role as a bastion for peace, national independence and development…"
In fact the famous Castro hug for Indira Gandhi has now become one of the most memorable and well-publicised photographs in India-Cuba relations.
The “bread of India” phrase is quite well-known in Cuba and one that Fidel Castro came up with. During 1992, India had provided Cuba with 10,000 tonnes of wheat and 10,000 tonnes of rice when Cuba was undergoing hardship due to an economic crisis brought about by US sanctions. Fidel Castro termed this donation from Delhi as the “Bread of India”, because it was sufficient for one loaf of bread for each one of the then Cuban population of eleven million people. At the same time, India had also provided donations worth two million US dollars during the Cuban earthquake.
Cuba has also repeatedly supported India's candidature as a permanent member on a reformed Security Council at the United Nations, and India had always pushed for lifting of US sanctions against the socialist nation.