Despite his autocratic rule, late Cuban leader Fidel Castro is revered by South Asian socialists as a symbol of resistance against US power. In a DW interview, rights campaigner Harris Khalique talks about his legacy.
DW: How has Castro influenced socialist movements in South Asia, particularly in India and Pakistan? What does his legacy mean in developing countries?
Harris Khalique: Fidel Castro, along with Che Guevara, remains a source of inspiration for leftist movements across the Third World, including India and Pakistan. Che is more of a romantic figure, whereas Castro is seen as someone who not only continued to take the bull of imperialism by the horns, but also made a nation-state survive against all odds.
Leftist movements in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan have been inspired by Mao's China and Lenin's Soviet Union. What model does Castro's Cuba offer to South Asian socialist politicians?
To be honest, it is more of a stimulus rather than a practical model that Castro's Cuba offers to South Asian, including Afghan, socialist movements. Cuba is a very small country with a completely different set of political and economic conditions. Here in South Asia, we are speaking about countries which are bigger than continents when it comes to their populations. We are heterogenous to the extreme, unlike Cuba, and incredibly large, with much bigger stakes for the world market.
Castro was an active player in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). How were the NAM and Castro viewed in Pakistan during the Cold War?
Pakistan has remained a member of Non-Aligned Movement. Even within the power elite, which mostly stays aligned with the US, there has always been a soft spot for NAM and what I call international institutions of the South. As far as people are concerned, Castro was always popular.
Isn't it ironic that Pakistan's pro-democracy activists take inspiration from communist regimes that ruled dictatorially? Do you see a contradiction?
You see, there is a reason for that contradiction. One issue is inclusive democracy to safeguard the civil and political rights of people, and the other is a just and equitable social and economic order, which global imperialism prevents from taking root. The reason Castro was respected had to do with his brave anti-imperial stances all along and his quest for justice and equality. While informed people in Pakistan are fully aware of the perils of autocracy, they also know that Western powers have supported dictatorial rules in Pakistan whenever it has suited them.
How relevant is Castro's anti-imperialist legacy in the present-day India and Pakistan, whose economies are controlled by neoliberalism?
The desire of Castro and the likes to create a just global economy has to be respected, but new strategies need to be evolved to realize this objective. The Marxist critique of neoliberalism is relevant, but solutions have to be reinvented.
How did Castro and his ideology influence literature in India and Pakistan?
The global socialist movement to which Castro belonged instilled hope in many of the leading thinkers and writers of India and Pakistan. From writers and artists belonging to the Progressive Writers' Association in the 20th century to individuals who may or may not have agreed with this movement, so many were either inspired or influenced by these ideals of humanity. In terms of genres, poetry and short fiction were particularly influenced.
Harris Khalique is a critically acclaimed poet and author, prominent columnist and rights campaigner from Pakistan.
The interview was conducted by Shamil Shams.