India and Egypt relationship

Source– The post is based on the article “Sisi’s visit as Republic Day chief guest: India’s Egypt opportunity” and “Delhi to Cairo” published in The Indian Express on 27th January 2023.

News– The article explains the historical aspects of the bilateral relationship between India and Egypt.

Sisi visited India as Chief Guest of this year’s Republic Day. This is the first time that an Egyptian President has been accorded this honour.

What are the historical aspects of the bilateral relationship between India and Egypt?

The history of contacts between India and Egypt can be traced back to at least the time of Emperor Asoka.

In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi and the Egyptian revolutionary Saad Zaghloul shared common goals on independence from British colonial rule.

The two nations made a joint announcement of establishment of diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level three days after India became free.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a close friend of President Gamal Nasser, and India and Egypt signed a friendship treaty in 1955.

In 1961, Nehru and Nasser, along with Yugoslavia’s President  Tito, Indonesia’s President Sukarno established the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao, I K Gujral, and Dr Manmohan Singh visited Egypt in 1985, 1995, 1997, and 2009 respectively.

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak came to India in 1982, 1983, and 2008. After the 2011 revolution, President Mohamed Morsi visited India in March 2013.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Cairo in August 2015, a little over a year after Sisi took charge in June 2014.

PM Modi met Sisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. Egyptian leader Sisi visited India in September 2016. The joint statement identified political-security cooperation, economic engagement and scientific collaboration, and cultural and people-people ties as the basis of a new partnership for a new era.

What is the importance of Egypt?

Egypt is the most populous country in West Asia. It occupies a crucial geo-strategic location.

12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal. It is a key player in the region.

Egypt is a link state between West Asia and North Africa. It is seen by the West as a force for stability in a region affected by al Qaeda, IS and other Islamists.

What are points of convergence in their relationship?

Friend in Muslim world– Egypt has a special place in the Islamic world. It is home to the great university of Al Azhar, widely seen as the most respected seat of learning for Sunni Islam.

India views Sisi’s Egypt as a moderate Islamic voice among Muslim-majority countries and friend within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

From the beginning, Sisi has been tough on Islamic religious extremism.

Stand on terrorism– President Sisi during the visit said that India and Egypt were worried about the spread of terrorism around the world.He called it the “most serious security threat” to humanity.

Modi said that the two countries agreed that concerted action is necessary to end cross-border terrorism.

Economic– It is a major market for India and can act as a gateway to both Europe and Africa. It also has bilateral trade pacts with important West Asian and African nations.

Recently, India agreed to export 1,80,000 tons of wheat to Egypt when it was facing a food crisis.

Geopolitical-The two countries are founding members of the NAM.

Like India, Egypt has tried to remain neutral in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The geopolitical landscape in West Asia has been transformed, with 9/11, Arab Spring revolts, rise of ISIS and Abrahamic Accords following in quick succession over 20 years.

India’s own strategic, security and economic priorities in West Asia have changed. These are  bringing India closer to Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. India now partners the UAE, Israel and the US in a “quad of the Middle East”.

What are the issues that can have an impact on the bilateral relationship?

Weak economy of Egypt– It was impacted by the collapse of tourism during the pandemic. The Russia-Ukraine war has impacted its supply of food. Almost 80% of Egypt’s grain came from these two countries. Inflation is at a five-year high of 21%.

China factor– China’s bilateral trade with Egypt is double that of India’s $7.26 billion in 2021-22. Sisi has been wooing Chinese investments. He has travelled to China as many as seven times in the last eight years.

What is the status of defence and security cooperation between the two countries?

The two countries are looking at deepening defence and security cooperation.

The two Air Forces collaborated on the development of fighter aircraft in the 1960s. Both the IAF and Egyptian air force fly the French Rafale fighter jets.

New Delhi wants to supply India-made defence equipment such as the LCA Tejas to Egypt.

A pact was signed when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Cairo last year. The two countries have decided to also participate in exercises and cooperate in training.

What were the important developments during the recent visit?

The joint statement outlined the elements of a “new partnership for a new era”. The relationship was elevated to a “strategic partnership”.

The strategic partnership will have broadly four elements: political, defence, and security; economic engagement; scientific and academic collaboration; cultural and people-to-people contacts.

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