Fidel Castro meets Indian vice president

Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro met with Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday, India’s ambassador to Cuba said.

“It was a very warm and affectionate visit,” Ambassador Chintapally Rajasekhar told reporters after Ansari met with the 87 years old who led the Americas’ only communist country for almost five decades.

Castro stepped aside during a health crisis in 2006 and has been replaced as president by his 82-year old brother Raul.

He had not met with a foreign official since Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa in September.

The Indian diplomat said Ansari wanted to personally pay his respects to an icon of social justice while on an official visit to Havana. Ansari also is to meet with the Cuban president’s designated successor, Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The only Indian investment in Cuba is ONGC Videsh Limited’s (OVL) search for oil in waters off Cuba’s north coast.

Cash-strapped Cuba is desperate to tap its potential offshore oil wealth to project its revolution into the future.

Cuba currently imports about 100,000 barrels of oil each day, under very favorable terms, from key ally Venezuela.

If its energy and economic lifeline to Venezuela were ever cut, Cuba would be plunged into economic collapse.

A major oil find, however, could turn Cuba from cash-poor to a well-funded exporter almost overnight.

Some studies have estimated that there may be between five and nine billion barrels of crude in ocean waters off the Cuban coast.

But officials in Havana that they have reason to believe the amount could be as high as 20 billion.