Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Egypt this month, the first such visit by an Indian Prime Minister since 1997, marked a milestone in India-Egypt relations.
The visit, closely following Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s state visit to India in January this year, has heralded a strategic partnership focusing on defense, security, and counter-terrorism, while also signifying India’s ambition to play a more significant role in the Middle East and Africa.
Modi’s visit was part of “a series of carefully calibrated initiatives” taken by India over the last year or so, Navdeep Suri, India’s former envoy to the UAE, Egypt and high commissioner to Australia, wrote in The Indian Express.
“They reflect the important groundwork done during the Cairo visits of defense minister Rajnath Singh in September and external affairs minister Dr S. Jaishankar in October 2022. These paved the way for the invitation to President Abdel Fattah al Sisi to participate as chief guest on India’s Republic Day in January 2023,” Suri, who is also a distinguished fellow at the think tank Observer Research Foundation, wrote.
This revitalized alliance carries substantial regional and global heft, enabling India to strengthen its presence in Africa, while enhancing Egypt’s role in global supply chains. Moreover, it offers India a stage to exhibit its defense prowess and aids Egypt in cultivating its domestic defense industry through technology transfer, investments, and collaborations.
Highlighting the growing economic ties between both nations, India’s former ambassador to Jordan and Libya, Anil Trigunayat, noted the aspiration of both countries to boost bilateral trade to $12 billion by 2027. “India and Egypt are looking to boost bilateral trade. India’s ReNew Power has signed a pact to build a green hydrogen plant in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) with an investment of $8 billion,” Trigunayat said.
The SCZone is a trade and business hub situated around the Suez Canal in Egypt. It was established to capitalize on the strategic location of the Suez Canal, which is one of the world’s most important waterways connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and providing the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans.
Both countries have had strong cultural and civilization ties for centuries, and furthering these ties to a strategic level fits into India’s Indo-Pacific strategy, Trigunayat said, adding, “India will soon have its special economic zone established in the SCZone.”
Anat Bernstein-Reich, president of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce, offered a regional perspective on India’s growing engagement in the Mediterranean. She told Press Insider that India’s positive presence in the area could have broader implications for peace and stability.
“As India emerges as a global powerhouse, its engagement in the Mediterranean can contribute to the stability and economic development in the Middle East,” she said.
Meanwhile, the strategic partnership between India and Egypt is expected to result in a mutually beneficial relationship. “While Egypt has shown interest in Indian defense equipment, including Akash and Akash NG air defense systems and light combat aircraft Tejas developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), India sees Egypt as a key player in its Indo-Pacific strategy,” Trigunayat said.
Modi’s visit also led to an agreement on counter-terrorism efforts, along with strengthened trade and investment ties. Acknowledging the common problem of radicalization both countries face, Trigunayat said, “Enlightened leadership at Al Azhar University in Cairo can play a constructive role in deradicalizing misguided youths.”
Both nations also signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in agriculture, archaeology, antiquities, and competition law. Discussions were also held on setting up an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Egypt and a Centre of Excellence in IT under the ministry of social justice of Egypt.
During the visit, Modi received the ‘Order of Nile,’ the highest state honor in Egypt, which is conferred upon individuals offering invaluable services to Egypt or humanity.
Modi also paid tribute to Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War at the Heliopolis Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cairo. His itinerary also included a tour of the Pyramids of Giza and a visit to the historic Al-Hakim Mosque, which was restored with the assistance of India’s Dawoodi Bohra community.
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