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PM says meeting with Castro memorable

About the meeting with Castro, the PM said he was in the presence of one of the greatest men of our times.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2006 12:02 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said he would never forget his meeting with Cuba's ailing leader Fidel Castro.

"I had a memorable meeting with President Castro...That's a meeting I will always remember, forever. I felt I was in the presence of one of the greatest men of our times," he told journalists who travelled with him to Brazil and Cuba.

Dr Singh had a 40-minute meeting with Mr Castro, 80, late on Saturday night in Havana, during which the charismatic Cuban leader went down memory lane and recalled his long association and friendship with Indian leaders.

Dr Singh was in Havana to attend the 14th Summit of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) held on September 15 and 16. Cuba took over as Chairman of the movement at the summit.

Mr Castro, who was elected Chairman of the conference, could not attend the event because he is yet to recover fully from an intestinal surgery in July.

The Prime Minister said he had gone to meet Mr Castro only to greet him and enquire about his health.

"But he engaged me in intense discussion, asking searching questions on India's economic problems, our food problems, our energy situation and how we ought to conserve energy, what Cuba is planning to do to conserve energy, what Cuba has done to promote human development with emphasis on health and education," he said.

Dr Singh said they covered a whole range of issues from the future of the international financial system, the future role of NAM, India's development prospects and its population problems.

The Cuban leader recalled his affection for late Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

"On the whole, it was a most satisfying meeting," the Prime Minister said.

Asked about Mr Castro's health, Dr Singh said he appeared weak.

"But he was sitting and for 40 minutes was engaged in a very intense dialogue. He showed no signs of tiredness. And at the end he said if the NAM summit had been held two days later, he would have been able to preside over it.

First Published: Sep 18, 2006 08:17 IST