Introduction: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi conferred PM Modi with the 'Order of the Nile' award, the nation's highest state honour. This is the 13th such highest state honour that various countries across the world have conferred upon PM Modi. PM Modi was in Egypt on a two-day state visit. This is his first tour to Egypt and the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM to the country since 1997.
Historical Background of the Relationship:
- Ancient civilizations: India and Egypt, two of the world's oldest civilizations.
- Friendship between leaders: Mahatma Gandhi and Saad Zaghloul shared common goals of independence.
- Founders of Non-Aligned Movement: strengthening their relationship during the Cold War.
- Solidarity in conflicts: India supported Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis and stood by Egypt and the Arabs after the Six-Day War in 1967.
Significance of the Relations
- Gateway to Europe and Africa: Egypt's strategic location along with the Suez Canal positions it as a gateway to both Europe and Africa, making it an important market for India.
- Shared vision of non-alignment: Nehru and Nasser's personal equation and their roles in the non-aligned movement strengthened the ties between India and Egypt.
- Moderate voice in the Islamic world: India perceives Egypt as a moderate and friendly voice within the Islamic world, presenting opportunities for collaboration between the two Global South partners.
- Historical cooperation: India and Egypt had close ties, including arms shipments during the Suez Crisis and discussions on nuclear cooperation and a joint fighter project in the past.
- Counter-terrorism efforts: Egypt, under President Sisi, has been praised for its strong stance against Islamic extremism, aligning with India's fight against terrorism.
Current State of Bilateral Relations
- Historical understanding: India and Egypt have a long history of close political cooperation, both bilaterally and in regional and global issues.
- Founding members of Non-Aligned Movement: Both countries were founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and have cooperated closely in multilateral fora.
- Mechanisms of dialogue: Bilateral institutional dialogues, including the Joint Working Group on Cyber Issues and Joint Committee Meetings on S&T and Counter Terrorism, enhance cooperation.
- Trade volume: Bilateral trade has increased significantly, reaching US$4.55 billion in 2018-19 and remaining robust even during the pandemic.
- Wheat export: India's inclusion in Egypt's accredited countries for wheat supply strengthens trade ties and addresses wheat shortage concerns.
- Investments: Around 50 Indian companies have invested in Egypt, contributing to economic cooperation.
- Technical cooperation: Benefiting Egyptian officials through initiatives like ITEC, ICCR, and IAFS scholarships.
Defence Relations: Cordial defence relations and Joint military exercises.
- The Indian community in Egypt consists of around 3,200 individuals, with Indian students studying at Al Azhar University.
- Cultural cooperation: The Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) promotes cultural exchange through activities such as language classes, seminars, and exhibitions.
- Popularity of yoga: In Egypt International Day of Yoga celebrated with enthusiasm.
Limitations in the Relationship
- Low bilateral trade: China's bilateral trade with Egypt surpasses India's, highlighting the need to enhance economic engagement.
- Defence trade deficiencies: Indian defence manufacturers still face limitations in meeting Egypt's defence needs, leading Egypt to explore other sources.
- People-to-people connections: Strengthening ground-level relations is challenging due to limited direct people-to-people connections and the absence of a significant Indian diaspora.
Outcomes from the Current Visit
- Consolidating new coalition: India's renewed engagement with Egypt aims to strengthen its coalition with moderate Sunni states in the Middle East, promoting peace and stability.
- Elevating bilateral ties: India and Egypt agree to elevate their bilateral ties to a strategic partnership, covering various aspects, including politics, security, defence, energy, and economy.
- Enhanced cooperation: Focus areas include defence industries, counter-terrorism intelligence sharing, strengthening food and pharma supply chains, and increasing bilateral trade.
- Media content exchange: The Media Authority of Egypt and Prasar Bharati will exchange content, facilitating cultural exchange between the two countries.
- Deeper economic engagement: India should prioritize deeper economic engagement with Egypt, aligning it with strategic imperatives.
- Proactive industry approach: Industry bodies like CII, FICCI, and ASSOCHAM can play a proactive role in promoting Egypt as an investment destination.
- Government-industry collaboration: for impactful economic cooperation.