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Home > News > Report

'One of the greatest men of our times'

Syed Firdaus Ashraf aboard Air-India One | September 18, 2006 11:24 IST

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had a memorable meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana on Saturday.

There was much speculation if Dr Singh would meet Castro after the ailing leader did not attend the 14th Non-Aligned Movement summit. His brother, Defence Minister Raul Castro, chaired the meeting in his absence.

The 80-year-old Castro spent 40 minutes with Dr Singh in hospital and the leaders discussed various issues.

"I had gone there only to greet him," Dr Singh told journalists accompanying him on Air-India One, "but he engaged me in intense discussion. We discussed India's development prospects and how we are dealing with our population, food and energy problems. I will always remember this meeting. I felt I was in the presence of one of the greatest men of our times."

Castro has always shared a special relationship with India, be it with Indira Gandhi -- who he famously enveloped in a bear hug at the 1983 NAM summit in New Delhi -- or with her father Jawharlal Nehru.

This was Dr Singh's second meeting with Castro; he had met the Cuban leader earlier in his avatar as a bureaucrat.

Asked how well Castro was, Dr Singh said, "He was weak and in a wheelchair. He told me he was recovering well. He thought that had the NAM summit been held two days later, he would have been able to preside over it."

Castro surprised Dr Singh by requesting a photograph. The old revolutionary got up from his wheelchair for the photograph. "I want this picture to be seen by all of India," Castro told the prime minister.

When asked if the two leaders had condemned the US' continuing blockade against Cuba, Dr Singh said, "We did not go into any condemnation. He did, however, say that the world's financial system is faced with many uncertainties with countries like the US absorbing the bulk of the world savings and there was a risk about the future of such a financial system."

Dr Singh felt there were a lot to be done in India's social sector development when compared to Cuba's achievements for its people.

"There is a big backlog of illiteracy, of improving health standards, of reducing infant mortality rates if we expect our country to be better than what we are now," the prime minister said. "I am concerned about the distance we have to travel on these points."

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: castro

what ever the policies might be, great people like catro are to be admired and are source of learning .i had many cuban freinds while ...

Posted by kiran babu

Sub: Cold War Relic

The NAM, Cuba and Fidel Castro are all Cold War relics. Why do we still associate ourselves with them? Oh, I forgot, the PM is ...

Posted by Atlantean

Sub: Hez a great man

Fidel castro is known for being a anti-American, he is a true leader, he is not like the leaders from the Indian subcontinent who lick ...

Posted by R. Almeida

Sub: Long distance to travel ......

"There is a big backlog of illiteracy, of improving health standards, of reducing infant mortality rates if we expect our country to be better than ...

Posted by Dr. Cajetan Coelho

Sub: Oldie Goldie club of Manmohanji and Catro bhai

It is not uncommon for an old man in power to admire another one. It is also not strange that a PM from Congress party ...

Posted by Sudhir Bisht



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