PM Modi’s strategic and visionary thought process has made him stand apart from the crowd.
Inviting Egypt’s President Abdel Fateh El Sisi as the Chief Guest at the august occasion of Republic Day, an Egyptian Military contingent will participate in the Republic Day parade at Kartavya Path. Another master stroke of PM Modi in statecraft!
El Sisi’s visit is also in the backdrop of commemorating the 75 years of India and Egypt’s diplomatic partnership. India and Egypt will likely seal around half a dozen agreements during the visit to El Sisi. This has paved the way for India to become a credible voice in the West Asian region.
New Delhi- Cairo relations on High Octane
Notably, despite the Nehru-Nasser bonhomie, El-Sisi is the first Egyptian President to be invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
The rekindling of the two most well-known civilisational states will be a potential third pole in International politics. India is quintessentially applying the principles in the multipolar world and expanding its geopolitical connections. It can be viewed as an antidote to Africa’s expansionist and coercive Chinese influence.
In the last decade, India and Egypt have been working together closely. The bilateral trade between countries reached a record high of US$ 7.26 billion in 2021-22. Both countries enhanced their cooperation in various sectors, such as agriculture, energy, defence, security, textiles, industries and retail.
Egyptian control of the Suez Canal, and its proximity to the Red Sea, which enables it to link it with the Eastern Mediterranean, ascertains the Arab country’s capability as a nodal link by providing a different connectivity route to Europe via the Red Sea-Mediterranean Sea route akin to Chabahar and International North-South Transport Corridor which connects India to Europe and Central Asian markets via Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia.
India’s Ambassador to Cairo, Ajit Gupte, stated that the past few months had witnessed multiple high-level visits from India to Egypt, beginning with Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh in September 2022 and Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar in October 2022.
On the economic front, around 50 Indian companies operating in Egypt provide direct employment to approximately 38,000 Egyptians, investing over $3.2 billion across the sectors.
Many of these companies plan to expand their investments by $800 million. Several Indian companies have also shown interest in developing green hydrogen and ammonia projects in Egypt, with leading Indian companies signing MoUs with the Government worth $18 billion.
The growing strength of India-Egypt ties was evident during the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. During the second wave of Covid-19 in India, Egypt shipped 30 tons of medical supplies and 300,000 doses of antiviral Remdesivir injection.
In a reciprocal move, India gave clearance for the initial shipment of 61,500 metric tons of wheat to Egypt in May 2022 despite India banning wheat exports following the climate change-induced heatwave.
Experts have stated that both Nations are trying to deepen the confidence-building measures between India and the Arab world and enhance productive relations.
In June last year, a contingent of the Indian Air Force participated in the month-long ‘Tactical Leadership Programme at Egyptian Air Force (EAF) Weapon School in Egypt. In October 2021, the Indian Air Force-Egyptian Air Force held the first-ever Joint Tactical Air Exercise’ Desert Warrior’.
India and Egypt share a strong Defence relationship wherein both Nations conduct various training, joint exercises, Defence exhibitions, etc., under the Joint Defence Committee (JDC).
The Exercise named Cyclone-I is also being held currently in Rajasthan, where the Special Forces contingents of both Nations are taking part in various activities to enhance their skills and interoperability. This is another step towards diversifying its defence sector.
Reports have also claimed that the two sides had also discussed joint training, maintenance and co-production of equipment. Egypt has expressed interest in buying India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) `Tejas’.
It is worth noting that apart from dialogues on defence, security and new energy initiatives, the two sides have been brought closer by Egypt’s pragmatic diplomacy in arenas such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where Cairo has increasingly maintained a cautious position while responding to Pakistan’s aggressive campaign on Kashmir.
Egypt is a balancing voice in the Arab world. It is on the strategic crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe and a capital that hosts the League of Arab States.
It has good relations with some of India’s strategic partners like Israel (with whom it erstwhile shared frosty relations) and Russia. Besides, Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu is also likely to visit India in the first half of 2023.
Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav led the Indian delegation to COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh last November. The North African Nation is among the nine countries invited by India for the G20 summit in September 2023.
Both countries could shape the regional security and economic architecture and engage in multilateral engagements along the lines of the recently conceived I2U2 (India, Israel, the US and the UAE), Negev Forum (Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the US and the UAE) and India-UAE-France trilateral.
It is sufficient to connect the dots of what this is leading to. It would not be wrong to say that India attempts to link the Indo-Pacific region with the African and West Asian regions. Thus, India is now perceived as a significant global player and a voice for the global South.
This has added another feather to India’s ‘Act West’ Policy which has seen tremendous progress under the current regime of PM Modi. This is viewed with high optimism and a watershed moment in the relations between India-Egypt, which will set the agenda for mutual developments for both Nations.