India agrees to waive $62 million in Cuban debt
Doubles number of technical scholarships for Cuban students
NEW DELHI: India has agreed to waive $62 million in Cuban commercial
debt — $29 million in principal and $33 million in interest, officials
in the External Affairs Ministry told this correspondent on Thursday.
Interestingly, New Delhi's decision relates to debt that the Cuban
Government owes private Indian companies, and has a special significance
given India's growing ties with the United States and Washington's
troubled equation with Havana.
Message from Castro
The decision came as Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque met with
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, External
Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister of State for External
Affairs Anand Sharma. A special message from Cuban President Fidel
Castro was handed over by Mr. Roque to Dr. Singh.
India also doubled the number of scholarships for Cuban students from
the existing 25 under its technical cooperation programme. It will also
provide 30 fellowships for Cubans at a wind energy research institute in
Pointing out that Mr. Roque had been given full access to the Indian
leadership, the officials pointed to New Delhi's interest in building an
energy partnership with Cuba. Already, ONGC Videsh was working
exclusively in two oil exploration blocks, and was a 30 per cent partner
in six other blocks in Cuban waters.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mr. Roque told presspersons
that Cuba fully supported India's entry into the United Nations'
Security Council as a permanent member.
Supporting the entry of two developing nations from Asia, Africa and
Latin America, he said the new entrants, too, should have the veto power
since the permanent five members were loath to give up theirs. "We don't
want a second-tier membership."
Right to nuclear energy
Warning that an invasion of Iran would have "terrible consequences," Mr.
Roque said Cuba supported the right of every country to develop nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes. According to him, Iran, like any other
country, had the right to master the nuclear fuel cycle, including the
production of nuclear fuel — a right recognised under the Nuclear
Pointing to the double standards employed by Washington, Mr. Roque
stated that while the Security Council was tackling Iran on the basis of
suspicion, it had not even discussed the issue of the 500 nuclear
weapons possessed by Israel. "Look at the double standards," he said,
underlining the fact that Cuba stood for a nuclear-free world, including
the dismantling of the existing nuclear stockpiles.
To a question on Iraq, he said it was an illegal war of occupation,
launched without U.N consent, and had led to the death of five hundred
thousand Iraqis. No solution was possible without the withdrawal of
American troops. "All this has been done for the control of oil."
On the formation of Left-leaning governments that objected to
"neo-liberal policies" in Latin America, Mr. Roque said every country
had the right to choose its own path according to the prevailing
conditions. However, if the Cuban revolution had been overthrown, it
would have, perhaps, taken longer for countries such as Bolivia, Brazil
and Uruguay to bring Left-leaning governments to power.