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Vice President Ansari opens Festival of India in Cuba

October 30, 2013 18:54 IST

People of Cuba were offered a glimpse of India's diverse culture when visiting Vice President Hamid Ansari inaugurated a Festival of India in Havana to bring the two countries closer.

Ansari, soon after his arrival in this Latin American country on Tuesday, inaugurated the festival that began with "Nrityaroopa", a fusion of six classical dances which was greeted with applause.

The Vice President, the first top Indian leader to make a bilateral visit to the Communist country, is scheduled to call on President Raul Castro on Wednesday.

He will also hold wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez.

Despite the two countries working closely in the Non-Aligned Movement, there was never any bilateral state visit from India to Cuba in the past six decades.

Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro met former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi but those meetings were held in New York and New Delhi and did not lead to any reciprocal visit from the Indian side.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Havana in 2006 to attend the NAM summit, a multilateral engagement.  Coming at a time when China is trying to make inroads into Cuba, Ansari's visit is being seen as an attempt to strengthen India's presence in Southern America.

India had written off Cuba's debt of $62 million in 2008. Subsequently, a new credit line of $120 million was opened, of which $12.7 million has been spent on a milk company, a chemical industry and an animal vaccine firm.

On the third leg of his tour, Ansari will leave tonight for Britain, where he will deliver a lecture on "Citizenship and Identity" at the Oxford Centre on Islamic Studies.

Image: Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari interacts with artists of the SangeetNatakAcademy after a show in Havana.

Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

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