Sri Lanka and Cuba, two of the prominent member states of the Non-Aligned Movement have a long standing diplomatic partnership spanning 57 years. In their foreign policy ideals, both nations have reiterated the commitment of both countries to the Non-Aligned Movement, for which both are founding members, and to the principles of multilateralism, self-determination and non-interference by states in the affairs of others.
Cuba and Sri Lanka ties have been cordial. In the 1970s, Cuba was one of the most vocal supporter of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) formally articulated in the Colombo summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. Prime Minister Junius Richard Jayawardene visited Cuba in 1979 to promote the aims of the movement, while the respective governments signed a number of agreements in the 1970s to further cement ideological ties. These included a cultural agreement, signed in 1976 and amended many times later, and a Scientific and Technical agreement which was signed in 1978 and later buttressed by later added protocols. Cuba also supported Sri Lanka by rejecting the 2012 U.S sponsored resolution Cuba is the only Caribbean country to have a diplomatic mission in Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka has two such missions, one of which is in Havana. The fact that both countries are members of the G-77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, have served to further strengthen the relationship and ties between the two nations over the years. Cuba also imports Sri Lankan tea and Sri Lankan students are beneficiaries of university education in that country.
Cuba and Sri Lanka have cooperated in a number of sectors with the goal of mutual development and economic progress. This cooperation has been especially noted in the sectors of risk management and biotechnology. Ties in the agriculture sector have been developed, and the similar climates of both countries have enabled the countries to work on developing crops such as papaya and coconut. Many traders from the Havana region of Cuba have settled in the North & North West of Sri Lanka in the early 20th century and made communities which no longer seem to be visible. However some cultural influences still hold, such as the Cuban contributions to Baila, a form of dance music popular on the island of Sri Lanka originated centuries ago among the ‘kaffir’ or Afro-Sinhalese communities (mixed communities of Portuguese, African and native Sinhalese people).
Small Sri Lankan communities are still present in some parts of Cuba, as well as people of Cuban mixed heritage in the northernmost parts of Sri Lanka. Relations between Sri Lanka and Cuba were further strengthened with the launch of Sri Lanka-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Association on 29th March 2016. Appearing on behalf of Sri Lankan Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who was out of the island, Deputy Speaker, Thilanga Sumathipala, presided the launch of the Sri Lanka-Cuba Friendship Association. Deputy Speaker, Thilanga Sumathipala, presiding at the launch of the Sri Lanka-Cuba Friendship Association, said relations between the two countries date back to the 1959 as Cuba was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka consequent to the country gaining independence.
At the launch of the partnership, the Cuban Ambassador to Sri Lanka Florentino Batista Gonzalez, said, “This is an important occasion and I am privileged to be here, especially when the two countries have had a long standing relationship spanning 57 years, through several governments that have been in power.
While such a relationship has been thriving, we are now witnessing a new chapter in our relationship, and I am looking forward to working with you, through the Sri Lanka-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Association to further moot the ties between the two countries” Both nations have a great potential remains for trade and investment, as well as in the scientific, academic, cultural and sports fields.
By International Institute for Non – Aligned Studies