There were rolling drums and student chants against the “Yankees”. It was 1973, and socialism was big in India. An excellent time for a visit from Fidel Castro – the Cuban revolutionary leader whose political, social and economic changes had transformed Cuba from a backward playground for American tourists into a Third World power.
The 1970s were symbolic of the events surrounding the Cold War, the clash of capitalist and communist ideologies supporting the United States and the Soviet Union, respectively.
For countries like Cuba and India, the Cold War also symbolised principles of imperialism and colonialism, and foreign interference was the last thing these – and many other – countries wanted. To maintain a distance from both sides was the idea behind the Non-Aligned Movement, an mooted earlier by Jawaharlal Nehru. And thus it was that Castro came to India as a signal of support for NAM.
Castro would return to New Delhi in March 1983 to attend the seventh NAM Summit. It was a historical summit – this was when he handed over the leadership of NAM from Cuba to India.
But the second reason seems to garner more interest – Castro’s bear hug for Indira Gandhi, which took everyone (including the recipient) by surprise.
The 1983 trip was also Castro’s last visit to India.