Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed first visit to Egypt on June 24 can open new avenues of cooperation, support and partnership between the two countries.
This visit of the Indian Prime Minister has assumed significance in the background of the speculations which were fueled by the non-participation of Egypt along with China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the recent G-20 Working Group meeting in Srinagar. Although Egypt is considered a neutral and influential voice of Islamic countries, it has not supported Pakistan’s policies many times in the meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Last year, a resolution of Pakistan against India in the OIC could not be passed due to a lack of support from Egypt.
Egyptian President Abdul Fateh al-Sisi attended India’s Republic Day celebrations this year as the chief guest. At that time, both countries had insisted on concrete action to eliminate cross-border terrorism, describing the terrorism spreading in the world as a serious threat to humanity. India-Egypt’s nearly 76-year-old diplomatic relations have remained steadfast despite international upheavals. Both are founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Relations between the two further deepened after a bilateral trade agreement in 1978.
The trade between the two has reached $7.26 billion. The target is to increase it to $12 billion in the next five years. About 50 Indian companies have invested $3.15 billion in Egypt in the chemical, energy, textile industries and agribusiness. To meet the needs for fertilizer and gas, India wants to increase its business with Egypt, while Egypt is willing to buy wheat from India along with defence materials. Due to the strong ties, India sent 61,500 tonnes of wheat to Egypt last year despite a ban on exports.
Egypt has been struggling with a shortage of foreign exchange for a long time. It wants to trade with India in a currency other than the dollar. Experts say that India can open a credit line worth billions of dollars for Egypt in the coming times. There is a possibility of an agreement in this regard during Modi’s visit to Egypt.
If this agreement is reached, Egypt will buy goods by giving Indian currency to India. In exchange for the import of goods from Egypt, India will send its goods to Egypt as payment. The Suez Canal is an important waterway in Egypt. 12 per cent of global trade takes place through this route. If India succeeds in reaching an agreement with Egypt on this route, then a new gateway to Europe and Africa will open for it.
India and Egypt share a long history of cultural and historical ties that have paved the way for a strong bilateral relationship. Both nations, with their rich ancient civilizations and diverse cultural heritage, have recognized the importance of fostering close ties in various sectors. Over the years, India and Egypt have collaborated in fields such as trade, defence, education, and cultural exchanges. This essay delves into the multifaceted dimensions of the India-Egypt relationship, highlighting the historical context, key areas of cooperation, challenges faced, and prospects.
The historical connection between India and Egypt can be traced back to ancient times. The Indus Valley Civilization and the Nile Valley Civilization developed simultaneously, and trade between the two regions flourished during the reign of the Pharaohs. Furthermore, Egypt served as a crucial trading partner for India during the Roman Empire. In modern times, diplomatic relations between India and Egypt were established in 1947, and since then, both nations have strived to strengthen their ties.
Trade and Economic Cooperation
Trade has been a significant driver of India-Egypt relations. The bilateral trade volume between the two countries has witnessed substantial growth in recent years. India’s main exports to Egypt include pharmaceuticals, textiles, engineering goods, and automotive components, while Egypt exports petroleum, fertilizers, and chemicals to India.
Efforts to boost economic cooperation have been bolstered through various mechanisms such as the India-Egypt Joint Trade Committee. Additionally, both nations have engaged in investment collaborations, with Indian companies investing in sectors such as information technology, telecommunications, and energy in Egypt.
Defence and Security Cooperation
India and Egypt have developed strong defence ties over the years. Regular high-level visits, joint military exercises, and defence equipment procurement have enhanced cooperation in this realm. Counter-terrorism cooperation has been a crucial area of collaboration, given the shared concerns about extremism and radicalization. Intelligence sharing, capacity building, and training programs have further strengthened the defence and security partnership between the two countries.
Cultural and Educational Exchanges
Cultural and educational exchanges play a vital role in enhancing people-to-people contact and fostering mutual understanding. India and Egypt have actively promoted cultural exchanges through initiatives like the Festival of India in Egypt and the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture in Cairo. These platforms provide opportunities for citizens of both nations to explore each other’s traditions, art forms, and languages. Moreover, educational collaborations have been established, enabling student and faculty exchanges, scholarships, and joint research projects between Indian and Egyptian universities.
Challenges and the Way Forward
Despite the progress made in India-Egypt relations, certain challenges persist. Geographical distance, differing political systems, and regional complexities pose hurdles that need to be addressed. Enhancing connectivity through increased air links and exploring new avenues for cooperation can help overcome these challenges. Strengthening economic ties, diversifying trade, and identifying new sectors for collaboration is crucial for further deepening the bilateral relationship. Additionally, leveraging technological advancements, such as digital diplomacy and e-governance, can contribute to enhanced communication and cooperation.
India-Egypt relations have evolved significantly, spanning historical, cultural, economic, and strategic dimensions. The two nations have recognized the immense potential for collaboration and have actively pursued avenues for cooperation in various sectors. Trade, defence, cultural exchanges, and educational partnerships have served as pillars in the bilateral relationship. While challenges persist, both India and Egypt have demonstrated a commitment to overcoming obstacles and strengthening ties for mutual benefit. As both nations continue to develop and contribute to regional and global affairs, the prospects for the India-Egypt relationship are promising.