India, Cuba team up in drugs, oil and wind energy
Thursday, February 15, 2007
by Anthony Boadle
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters): 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.
India seeks to strengthen economic ties with Cuba
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP): India wants to strengthen economic ties with Cuba that already include the oil and biotechnology sectors, the visiting Indian foreign minister said, local media reported Tuesday.
Indian Foreign Minister Anand Sharma said the two sides were exploring new bilateral contracts and reviewing their relations.
Sharma heads the Indian delegation to an intergovernmental meeting that opened Monday.
On the opening day, Sharma underscored "his country's willingness to increase economic and cooperation relations" with Cuba "to raise them to the rank of the political relations," the state newspaper Granma said.
"Our two countries have worked together in multilateral forums and also have worked very strongly in mutual interests," the Indian minister said.
The head of Cuba's foreign investment and economic cooperation, Marta Lomas, said that the commission "will renew major bilateral accords, mainly in the areas of science and technology," and will analyse "proposals of bilateral accords with the aim of reciprocal promotion and protection of investments."
Lomas also called for compromise between the Cuban and Indian delegations to achieve results in their talks "in the right direction."
Cuba and India have close political ties in various international forums, particularly in the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. Cuba has held the NAM presidency since September and has reaped thousands of dollars in bilateral contracts in oil and biotechnology.
India's state-run oil company signed a six-year deal in September with Cuba for oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the deal, India's Oil and National Gas Corporation (ONGC) will explore blocs N-34 and N-35, which cover an area of 4,300 square kilometers (1,544 square miles) in Cuban waters.
ONGC already has a 30 percent interest in six other blocs in which Norway's Norsk Hydro also has 30 percent interest and Spain's Repsol YPF 40 percent.
Officials of the state-run Cuba Petroleos (CUPET) say a total of six companies have signed exploration deals for 16 blocs in the Gulf of Mexico.
Contracts have been signed, in addition to those with companies from India, Norway and Spain, with firms in Venezuela, China, Canada and Malaysia.
Cuba and India also are developing strong investments in biotechnology and joint production of medicines.
A new plant for the production of the HR3 antibody, a human monoclonal antibody developed by Cuban scientists and used in the treatment of head and neck cancer, opened in April in India.
A factory producing Cuban vaccine against Hepatitis B has been operating in the Asian country since 2002.
New Delhi has cooperated with Havana through the work of some 300 specialists in agriculture, electronics, information technology and industrial textiles.