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India’s Egypt Opportunity
News: PM Modi and President Abdel Fatth El-Sisi agreed to elevate the India-Egypt bilateral relationship to a “strategic partnership”.
• The strategic partnership will have broadly four elements: political, defence, and security; economic engagement; scientific and academic collaboration; cultural and people-to-people contacts.
How have India-Egypt relations evolved over the years?
• The history of contacts between India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilisations, can be traced back to at least the time of Emperor Asoka. In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi and the Egyptian revolutionary Saad Zaghloul shared common goals on independence from British colonial rule.
• India-Egypt along with Yugoslavia, Indonesia and Ghana, established the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM).
• In September 2016, when President Sisi paid a state visit to India, it led to a joint statement that identified 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.
Egypt as Friend of India in Muslim World:
• It is home to the great university of Al Azhar, widely seen as the most respected seat of learning for Sunni Islam.
• New Delhi views Sisi’s Egypt as a moderate Islamic voice among Muslim-majority countries, as well as a “friend” within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Potential to fight Terrorism and improved Defence ties:
• From the beginning, Sisi has been tough on Islamic religious extremism.
• Both leaders were “unanimous” that terrorism is the “most serious security threat” to humanity. The two countries agreed that “concerted action is necessary to end cross-border terrorism”.
• The two countries are looking at deepening defence and security cooperation. New Delhi wants to supply India-made defence equipment such as the LCA Tejas, missiles like Akash, DRDO’s Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon, and radars to Egypt.
Role India can play to help Egypt in current crisis:
• Egypt’s economy has been in shambles over the past few years.
• Egypt’s 80% grains come from Russia-Ukraine. Despite restrictions on the export of wheat, India had last year allowed shipments of 61,500 metric tonnes to Egypt. But the country needs more.
• From India, Egypt has sought investments in infrastructure Metro projects in Cairo and Alexandria, a Suez Canal economic zone, a second channel of the Suez Canal, and a new administrative capital in a Cairo suburb.
Geo-strategic significance of Egypt:
• 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal — and is a key player in the region. It is a major market for India and can act as a gateway to both Europe and Africa. It also has bilateral trade pacts with important West Asian and African nations.
• More than six decades ago, the two countries founded the NAM. They now have an opportunity to forge a new path ahead, not just for their strategic and economic interests, but as the voice of the Global South.