You do not really expect to see a stamp from Cuba in a blog about Commonwealth stamps but this single stamp issued during 2012 by the only communist state in the western hemisphere (unless you include Venezuala) startled me when I first noticed it on a dealer's website. The flag of Cuba is shown amidst the national flags of 6 tiny Commonwealth Pacific island states - Kiribati, Tonga, Cook Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Fiji and the the item commemorates the 10th anniversary of Cuba's diplomatic relations with the small nations. I was surprised to discover that Cuba had diplomatic relations with these small territories separated from it by a whole continent and a wide expanse of ocean. However, on further research, I discover that Cuba established diplomatic relations with Nauru in 2002 and with The Solomon Islands in 2003. Even before that, relations were established between Cuba and Vanuatu as long ago as 1983 (though Vanuatu is not included among the nations featured on this stamp). Formal diplomatic relations with Tonga, Samoa and Fiji were established in 2009 (although Samoa, like Vanuatu, is not mentioned on this particular stamp). Various Oceania presidents have paid state visits to Havana (President Anote Tong of Kiribati has paid 2 such visits) and Cuba provides the various territories with useful aid, particularly in the delivery of medical care in the islands. Cuba supplies several of the countries with doctors and takes medical students from the tiny countries to study medicine in Cuba. Cuban intervention in the medical care system in Kiribati is said to have reduced mortality rates there by 80%.
Meanwhile, another diplomatic relations stamp has been issued - by Mauritius - as part of a set of 3 "anniversaries" stamps which was issued on 9 October 2012. This Rs14 value commemorates the 40th anniversary of its diplomatic relations with The People's Republic Of China and depicts the national flags of Mauritius and China. I have previously commented that the Chinese are very astute at the use of stamps in promoting their international relations, even - as we well know - donating to The Republic of South Sudan its first sets of stamps after the achievement of independence. A few other postal administrations could learn lessons from the Chinese in the use of stamps in the promotion of their international relations but I suppose most western post administrations are too obsessed with the production of excessive issues on trite subjects in the pursuit of financial profit to realise this.
The stamps that countries produce (or have produced for them) tell us such a lot about the countries themselves such as how the little nations of the Pacific area appear to be forging close relationships with Cuba or just how many are prepared to advertise their close links with China. Stamps certainly give you an appreciation of what is happening in the world, things that you might otherwise never have noticed. Perhaps the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ought to have a philatelist-in-residence to keep an eye on what the world's stamps are telling us!