India and Egypt share close political understanding based on long history of contacts and cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. Both countries were the founding members of the Non Allied Movement (NAM) and have co-operated on multilateral forums.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
India has invited Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to be the Chief Guest for the Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2023. External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar told the Parliament on December 7, 2022, "As far as Republic Day celebrations are concerned, we have invited Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the Chief Guest and he has graciously accepted the invitation," while delivering his remarks on the 'Latest Developments in India's Foreign Policy'. India had never invited any dignitary from Egypt to be Chief Guest at the annual Republic Day Parade since 1950. It is the first time that an Egyptian President will be the Chief Guest on India's Republic Day.
This year, India and Egypt are marking the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. The related press release by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that India has invited Egypt as the 'guest country' during India's G20 presidency in 2022-2023. The MEA noted that India and Egypt have "warm and friendly relations" based on civilisational and deep-rooted people-to-people ties. Jaishankar also issued a press release that read, "At the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, will be the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2023. This is the first time that the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt will be the Chief Guest at our Republic Day."
This is the first time that the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt will be the Chief Guest at our Republic Day
Bilateral Relations India and Egypt, two of the world's oldest civilisations, have enjoyed a history of close contact from ancient times. Emperor Ashoka's edicts refer to his relations with Egypt under Ptolemy-II. In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi and Saad Zaghloul shared common goals on the independence of their countries, a relationship that was to blossom into an exceptionally close friendship between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru, leading to a 'Friendship Treaty' between the two countries in 1955.
India and Egypt share close political understanding based on long history of contacts and cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. Both countries were the founding members of the Non Allied Movement (NAM) and have co-operated on multilateral forums. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Sisi on the sidelines of UNGA, New York in September 2015 and again in October 2015 during the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi. President Sisi paid a State visit to India in September 2016 during which a Joint Statement was issued outlining the three pillars of 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.
There are several mechanisms of bilateral institutional dialogue at different levels like: Foreign Office Consultations; Joint Defence Committee (JDC); Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology (S&T); Joint Trade Committee, and; Joint Working Groups (JWGs) on Cyber Issues, Counter Terrorism, Agriculture, Plant Quarantine and Animal Quarantine, and ISRO-EgSA (Egyptian Space Agency). The5th Session of India-Egypt Joint Trade Committee and the 5th India-Egypt Joint Business Council Meeting was held in Cairo on July 25-26, 2022. In October 2022 EAM Jaishankar visited Egypt and held discussions with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry. The discussions included the Ukraine conflict and the Indo-Pacific. Jaishankar also invited Egypt to the G20 summit.
India has invited Egypt as the 'guest country' during India's G20 presidency in 2022-2023
Egypt has traditionally been one of India's most important trading partners in the African continent. The India-Egypt Bilateral Trade Agreement has been in operation since March 1978 and is based on the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause. In 2022, India-Egypt recorded the highest ever bilateral trade of $7.26 billion, with items like crude petroleum, fertilizers, bovine meat, cotton yarn etc dominating the trade basket.
Over 450 Indian companies are registered in Egypt of which around 50 are in manufacturing and construction with a combined investment to the tune of $3.15 billion. Approximately half are joint ventures or wholly owned Indian subsidiaries while the rest operate through their representative offices and execute projects for government organisations. As per official statements, fresh Indian investments worth $700 million are lined up to be injected in Egyptian economy in the upcoming years. Egyptian investments in India are to the tune of $49 million, which include Elsewedy- Group (smart electrometers); KAPCI Coatings (car paints) and Modern Waterproofing Group/Bitumode (waterproofing membranes and protection boards for construction industry).
President Sisi, now 68 years of age, is the sixth president of Egypt since 2014. A former General in the Egyptian military, Sisi served as Director of Military Intelligence (2010-2012), Minister of Defence (2012-2013) and Deputy Prime Minister (2013-2014). He was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal in January 2014. After the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt (installed by the US) was downed in riots and protests culminated in the downing of the President Morsi-led government on July 3, 2013, an interim government was installed.
Egypt has traditionally been one of India's most important trading partners in the African continent
However, on March 26, 2014, in response to calls from supporters to run for the presidency, Sisi retired from the military and announced his candidacy in the 2014 presidential elections. Compare this with how India treated Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw when he gave India 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war (highest after World War II); not even using his acumen as the Defence Minister. Sisi was sworn as the President of Egypt on June 8, 2014. He was later re-elected to a second term in 2018 after winning the 2018 presidential election. In April 2019, the Egyptian Parliament extended his presidential terms from four to six years. President Sisi was also allowed to run for a third presidential term in the next presidential elections to be held in 2024.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which does not believe in democracy, had radicalised Egypt to a great extent. Sisi had the radical leaders rounded up and his administration conveyed to them point blank that one billion Muslims in the world cannot kill the six billion non-Muslims and vice versa. They were, therefore, told that they must shun radicalism and give up violence or else action would be taken against them. He then came down heavily on the defaulters with prison terms and closures. Egypt ranked 15 from the top in the Global Terrorism Index 2021 compared to India ranked at 12.
There is tremendous scope for expansion of the India-Egypt Bilateral Relationship. President Sisi's second visit to India, this time as Chief Guest for the 2023 Republic Day celebrations, would provide another impetuous for accelerating bilateral cooperation for the common good of the people of the two nations.