India, Cuba team up in drugs, oil, wind energy
Posted online: Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 1035 hours IST
HAVANA, FEBRUARY 15: India and Cuba are forging closer economic ties
through cancer vaccine research and oil exploration in the Gulf of
Mexico, officials said this week.
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, who ended a
visit to Havana on Wednesday, said the longtime Third World allies also
will train a Cuban team in wind energy technology among a growing number
of areas of cooperation.
"We will see a leap in cooperation between India and Cuba … based on a
solid political understanding," Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage said
after meeting Sharma on Tuesday.
Cuba wants to tap India's information technology advances, while a
biotech joint venture opened last year in India is producing vaccines
for a treatment of neck and head cancer developed by Cuban scientists.
"The clinical trials for some of the vaccines are almost over and they
will be marketed soon. This is one area where Cuba is a world leader,"
Sharma told reporters.
India is encouraging its private pharmaceutical firms to seek deals with
Cuba's biotech industry, and the two countries agreed to supply each
other with generic medicines, he said.
New Delhi agreed to reschedule Cuba's trade debt with India and forgive
accumulated interest payments, Cubans officials said. They gave no figures.
ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas subsidiary of India's state-owned
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, has opened an office in Havana after
signing up last September to explore for offshore oil in two blocks of
Cuba's Gulf of Mexico.
OVL is already a partner with Spain's Repsol-YPF and Norway's Norsk
Hydro in six blocks in an area where three years ago Repsol found good
quality oil, though not in commercial quantities.
A Repsol executive said the consortium would finish seismic studies in
two months and decide whether to drill another well, which would take a
year to prepare and contract a rig.
India has maintained close ties to Cuba since its first prime minister,
Jawaharlal Nehru, met Cuban leader Fidel Castro in New York in 1960
before the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations.
Communist-run Cuba heads the movement for a second time since a summit
in Havana in September.
Castro was absent from the summit due to emergency surgery that forced
him to relinquish power temporarily to his brother Raul in late July.
Sharma said he saw "very strong continuity and stability" in Cuba during
his meetings with senior Cuban ministers.
"They did say his health is stable and he has made improvements," Sharma
said. Whether or not Castro will return to public office will depend on
his doctors, Sharma said.