Home Contact Us  

US & South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4795, 5 January 2015

Voice from America

Obama’s Rapprochement with Cuba
Amit Gupta
Associate Professor, Department of International Security, USAF Air War College, Alabama

For the first six years of his presidency President Obama played nice with the Republicans in the hope that they would enact significant domestic policy reforms. Instead, he was met with obstruction and efforts to derail his most significant domestic achievement - the Affordable Care Act. Since the 2014 midterms the President has done what all his predecessors did when faced with domestic roadblocks - he has moved to try and conduct major changes in foreign policy. His administration has worked out a climate change deal with China and both countries have lowered tensions in the relationship. A food security deal has been struck with India thus paving the way for significant advances in the World Trade Organisation but the most interesting redefinition of US foreign policy has been the rapprochement with Cuba. After extensive and secret negotiations the US has decided to scrap the fifty year old policy of not engaging with Cuba and instead establish full diplomatic relations. Greater trade, investment, and increased flows of money from the Cuban diaspora in America to their relatives back home are expected to result from this policy shift.  Tourism has yet to be permitted but it is almost inevitable.

For over fifty years America’s Cuba policy has been held hostage by a vocal and politically active Cuban diaspora, conservatives who revile the Castro brothers as the last bastion of Communism in the western hemisphere, and by foreign policy and national security bureaucrats in Washington DC who have either built their careers on the Cuban embargo or just have long institutional memories. President Obama has correctly pronounced the policy a failure and, instead, sought to engage the Cuban government in a dialogue that will lead to a comprehensive transformation of the currently adversarial relationship. 

Opposition to the resumption of relations comes primarily from the Cuban-American community and the conservatives in the American political system.  Conservatives could have changed this policy a decade ago with little electoral blowback since the Cuban-American community has never been particularly fond of the Democrats because the die-hard Cuban nationalists still blame John F Kennedy for the botched Bay of Pigs invasion.

Further, the Cuban-Americans played a critical role in the electoral politics of Florida and were thus courted by both political parties in the US. But attitudes within the Cuban American community are changing and, at the same time, their political clout in Florida politics is diminishing as other Latino groups (who have a different political agenda) are surpassing the Cuban community in numbers. Moreover, the business opportunities that will come from opening up the island are going to be too hard for American corporations to resist. 

Cuba has high literacy rates and a trained work force that could work effectively if manufacturing is moved to that country. Its medical community can provide the type of care that makes medical tourism to the island an attractive possibility and there is great potential for American hotel groups that want to invest in the country’s tourist industry which at present is dominated by European companies. 

Additionally, members of the Cuban American diaspora have traditionally gone to Cuba from Mexico, Canada, and Jamaica but this is an unnecessarily arduous journey. Direct flights from the US would benefit both countries. 

Perhaps the biggest change is the one that President Obama is suggesting will happen. With greater interaction between the Cuban people and the US we are likely to see the push for increased liberalisation and democracy the lack of which being the very criteria on which sanctions were imposed in the 1960s. 

A Republican-led Congress, however, is going to make it difficult for the Obama Administration to move forward easily on rebuilding the relationship. There is already talk of not funding some of the President’s initiatives including paying for an embassy in Havana. What obstructionist and myopic Congressmen need to understand is that as Yitzhak Rabin put it: "You don’t need to talk to make peace with your friends. You need to make peace with your enemies.” Wise words.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Air Force or the Department of Defense.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
The Iran Deal: Is it Hard to Resist?

PR Chari: Scholar, Gentleman, Institution Builder

The Battle against FIFA: Combating Corruption or Combating Power Transition?

Why the Rafale Deal Must be Welcomed

China's Global Ambition: Need to Emulate Germany

Mid-Term Elections: So What If the US Swings Hard Right?

Modi’s US Visit: So Much Promise, Such Little Outcome

India and Australia: Beyond Curry, Cricket, and Commonwealth

Obama’s Russian Dilemma

And Then There is the Middle East: The Lack of an End-Game

US and the World Cup: Nationalism without Football?

India-US: Will Modi and Obama Come Together?

India, Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Irrelevance for South Asia

Boston Bombings: Possible Lessons

Special Commentary: India’s Missile Defence

If Pakistan Fails

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.