Pakistan maintains cordial ties with a number of leading and progressive states in Latin America. There are Pakistanis in many fields and businesses that are involved in Latin America, including the states of Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, etc.
Pakistan has no doubt considerably fewer diplomatic existences in the region of Latin America than its neighbors like India. But it has the potential to have partnerships in the Western Hemisphere, especially in Spanish-speaking states like Cuba.
There is no doubt that the foreign policies of countries in the global south are influenced usually by the powerful actors on the global level.
Cuba and Pakistan sustained a position that entitles their relations and foreign policy approaches towards each other independently.
Cuba and Pakistan had also put the bulwark of the diplomatic ties in October 1955, and waved their way for the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Islamabad and the Pakistani Embassy in Havana.
The relations between these two states are mostly concentrated on economic, health, cultural, and humanitarian cooperation.
Havana and Islamabad have cooperated in other avenues as well. Nevertheless, cooperation in the humanitarian sector is more relevant.
Cuba is a state that was criticized on a political basis for attaining the structures that impacted the human rights and global liberal norms of peace and cooperation by the Western states.
Despite all of these allegations, Cuba remained quite much active in providing Pakistan along with other Third World States with humanitarian assistance throughout several disasters.
The humanitarian assistance from Cuba to Pakistan can never be underestimated. Cuba provided both financial aid and the support of medical teams with highly-qualified Cuban doctors throughout different crises in Pakistan notably during the 2005’s Earthquakes in Kashmir and the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
Cuba proved to be the largest contingent in the Earthquakes of 2005 inside Pakistan regarding foreign assistance teams at that time.
The importance of the relations between Pakistan and Cuba can be understood through the statement of former Deputy Foreign Minister of Cuba, Rodrigo Parilla, that the leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, took a personal interest in supporting Pakistan during the disasters of the historic 2005’s Earthquake.
Cuban efforts were appreciated by the Pakistani leadership at that time as well as by the international community.
In the principles of Pakistani Foreign Policy, it is added that friendly nations must partner for trade and cultural relations. Understanding the point of the trade between Havana and Islamabad, both states are already having closer trade ties through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2007.
Just like the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) of Pakistan agreed to conduct trade and commercial activities inside Cuba. Gujranwala Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) also went to a discussion with the Embassy officials and the Finance Ministry officials of Cuba regarding enhancing the trade ties between the two sides.
The meeting that was held in November 2021 between the Cuban and Pakistani business communities and government officials actually defined that both states will expand the bilateral trade ties.
The business community and industrialists of Pakistan also consider Cuba as a potentially opportunistic area to increase foreign direct investment in Pakistan as well as the importance of Pakistani commodities in the markets of Havana.
Similarly, in the context of cultural relations, the two states had enhanced the ways for future diplomatic and strategic goals under the point of the South-South Cooperation.
Cuba has provided opportunities for study to more than 300 hundred students in Pakistan just in the period of 2005-6. It is also to add that the number of students going from Pakistan had gradually seen a credible increase.
Pakistani students and technicians had the opportunity to train in medical sciences and research in healthcare and surgery. 1000 scholarships yearly were announced to provide the ground for better healthcare inside Pakistan by welcoming Pakistani students to get a medical education.
Future prospects in the Context of South-South cooperation
The future of the relations between the two states must be shifted towards dealing with other bilateral matters as well as the problems that are important in regard to non-traditional security on a global level.
The age of Globalization defines the very aspect here that environmental threats like climate change, the non-traditional issues of food security amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the increasing threats to cyberspaces, the sensitivity towards pandemics and diseases, and the movement of resources from the Global South to Global North.
All of these factors must be reconsidered by Pakistan and Cuba for achieving the goals of the South-South Cooperation.
As per the report of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) published in 2021, Cuba had played a considerable role in combating environmental threats and had also formulated policies for the sustainability of ocean resources.
The Cuban government had also taken the initiative of working on gender equality as well as the political well-being of women.
Cuba has stated its commitments through the foreign policy approaches toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.
Similarly, Pakistan is also focusing on enhancing South-South Cooperation concerning environmental threats, food security, and maritime resources.
Pakistan still needs a long way to deal with issues related to the SDGs and that is possible through enhancing South-South Cooperation as its agenda in foreign policy by increasing cooperation with states like Cuba.
Cuba and Pakistan must consider the other objectives for cooperation in policy coordination and increasing cultural diplomacy towards achieving the strategic goals in the context of the South-South Cooperation.
The opportunity for enhancing the South-South Cooperation and the strengthening of future ties between Havana and Islamabad requires serious attention.
Such aspects can be taken benefits in form of the already initiated projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Cuba had already shown interest in the BRI’s sub-project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Cuba has also adopted the Digital Multimedia Broadcast Terrestrial (DMBT) by assisting Pakistan in shifting terrestrial transmission from analog to digital systems.
CPEC has the capacity to enhance South-South Cooperation in the region as well as provide the ground for the Global South’s states to engage in partnerships in the region for the enhancing of multilateral and region-to-region cooperation for economic integration and achieving the greater objectives of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The future of the relations between Cuba and Pakistan depends on the mutual diplomatic efforts that may achieve the goals of the SDGs, the collective approach to fight environmental threats, and definitely to enhance South-South Cooperation.
Both states, at different times, were impacted by geopolitical factors because of the power politics of the Global Powers due to Globalization.
The achievement of the goals of the South-South Cooperation can also be made more possible if the trade, environmental, industrial, and cultural ties along with the focus on the security sector are properly accommodated in the foreign policy approaches of both Islamabad and Havana.
*The writer is a Fellow at The Diplomatic Insight, published by the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies
**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.