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India for greater economic ties with Cuba: Krishna

Havana: India is keen on fostering closer economic ties with oil-rich Cuba as the two countries already share "excellent" political relations, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has said. "The purpose of my visit to Cuba is to promote economic relations between both countries. Our political relations are excellent," Krishna said on state television after a meeting with the speaker of Cuba`s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon.

Krishna and his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez agreed to foster bilateral links and the steps to be followed to boost them, Cuba`s official news agency Prensa Latina said. The ministers held two meetings on Friday as part of the agenda of Krishna`s first official visit to Cuba. Krishna said he was "impressed" by recent developments in Cuba, billed as reforms by President Raul Castro, while issuing an invitation to Rodriguez to visit India next month.

India has invested in oil exploration off Cuba`s coast in the Gulf of Mexico and the country`s Trade and Industry minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will visit Cuba to further boost good relations, Krishna added. According to the Rodriguez, Cuba and India have stepped up to keep expanding exchanges between the two countries, adding both countries ratified their commitments to multilateralism.

Earlier this week, Rodriguez had expressed his country`s eagerness to cooperate with India in a range of fields, including hydrocarbon exploration. "Cuba will cooperate with India in the fields of sports, bio-technology and pharmaceuticals, and will highly encourage India to partner in hydrocarbons and oil exploration sectors," Rodriguez said.

Bilateral trade between India and Cuba reached its highest level in the 1980s when it topped USD 300 million annually. Two-way trade currently stands at around USD 50 million a year. According to official 2010 figures trade between the two countries reached some USD 54 million, EFE news agency said.

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