Building on historic ties

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 25 Jan 2023

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi left for India this week to hold intensive political, economic, and military talks, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

photo: AP
photo: AP


At the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is paying a three-day state visit to India from 24 to 26 January. It is his second state visit to India, and he will be the chief guest at India’s 74th Republic Day celebrations.

President Al-Sisi visited India in October 2015 to participate in the third India-Africa Forum Summit, and in September 2016 he travelled on a state visit. This week’s trip is the first time a president of Egypt has been invited as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day and, according to Indian media, a contingent from the Egyptian army will participate in the Republic Day parade.

This year, India and Egypt celebrate the 75th anniversary of their establishing diplomatic relations.

President Al-Sisi will receive a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, the day after his arrival, and India’s President Droupadi Murmu will host a state banquet in his honour the same evening.

Al-Sisi will have a bilateral meeting with Modi, who last visited Cairo in August 2015, and delegation-level talks will address bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. President Al-Sisi is also scheduled to meet with India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and attend a roundtable with India’s business community.

Wael Hamed, Egypt’s ambassador to India, said in a statement that “Egypt-India multi-faceted relationship is based on shared cultural values, commitment to foster economic growth and collaboration in the fields of defence and security and convergence on regional and global issues,” said Hamed.

Hamed added the visit will be followed by Cairo and New Delhi inking bilateral agreements covering information technology, export promotion, agriculture, industry, environment, and renewable energy and telecommunications.

“Talks between Egypt and India on investment in green hydrogen began in December 2021 and continued on the sidelines of the COP27 conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. The two countries have signed an $8 billion agreement, though it is expected to reach $20 billion,” said Hamed.

“Bilateral trade reached a record high of $7.26 billion in FY 2021-22, with $3.74 billion of Indian exports to Egypt and $3.52 billion worth of Egyptian exports to India. More than 50 Indian companies have invested a total of $3.15 billion in the Egyptian economy, concentrated in the chemical, energy, textile and garment, agri-business and retail sectors.

“For India, Egypt is not just a market of 105 million consumers but a gateway to Africa and elsewhere. More than $200 billion of trade passes through the Suez Canal annually.”

Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Ahmed Samir said in a statement on 21 January that “the value of non-oil trade exchange with India hit a record $4.1 billion during the period from January to November 2022, $723 million of which comprised Egyptian exports to India.

“We are keen to take advantage of India’s giant industrial and productive capabilities,” he added.

Foreign Minister Jaishankar told the media this week that President Al-Sisi’s visit offered an opportunity to push relations with Egypt to higher levels.

“Egypt and India are both ancient civilisation states, and we have a history of working together and a tradition of thinking beyond narrow national interests,” she said.

Egyptian and Indian relations reached a peak in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s when late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser and India’s leader Jawaharlal Nehru, joined by former Yugoslavian president Joseph Broz Tito, formed the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961,” recalls Al-Ahram analyst Hassan Abu Taleb. “President Nasser was always keen to listen to the views of Nehru on international affairs and seek the support of India in international circles like the United Nations.

“In 1961, when Nasser, Nehru and Tito founded the Non-Aligned Movement, they were seeking to increase their voice in international relations at a time when the world was polarised by the Cold War. Now a cold war scenario is repeating itself, as is clear from the war in Ukraine, it is important that Egypt and India coordinate to recover their earlier role in settling conflicts and spreading peace.”

“President Al-Sisi’s visit to India represents a momentous occasion for both countries that will undoubtedly herald a new dawn in their bilateral relations,” Ajit Gupte, India’s ambassador to Egypt, told attendees at an early national day celebration in Cairo last weekend. “As the world faces new threats, it is imperative the two countries draw closer to realise sustainable solutions.”

Recently, observers have noted that cooperation between Egypt and India is not confined to the economy. Military cooperation has also grown. Egypt and India conducted their first ever joint tactical air force exercise, Desert Warrior, in October 2021, and special forces from the two countries will take part in a joint exercise planned later this month. Indian naval ships regularly visit Egyptian ports on goodwill visits, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation was signed during the visit of India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh to Cairo in September 2022 when Singh met with President Al-Sisi and his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Zaki.

Abu Taleb expects that military cooperation will top the agenda of Al-Sisi’s talks in New Delhi.

“President Al-Sisi has always been keen to diversify Egypt’s sources of armament, and in this respect has been keen to consolidate bilateral relations with the world’s major powers, India among them,” he said.


Short link: