India Egypt Relations
International relations > India and Global Regions > Non cooperation movement
- India and Egypt decided to elevate their ties to the level of strategic partnership with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi vowing to expand ties in areas of defence and security, trade and counter-terror cooperation.
INDIA AND EGYPT: HISTORY
- India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilizations, have enjoyed a history of close contact from ancient times. 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.
- In 1955, India under Jawaharlal Nehru and Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser became the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. The two countries also signed a Friendship Treaty in 1955.
- There was close cooperation between the Air Forces, with joint development of Helwan 300 fighter jets in 1960s.
- However, Egypt’s inclination towards US and India’s ties with Soviet Union in the late 1970s hindered the development of strong bilateral ties.
- The year 2022 marked the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relation between India and Egypt.
AREAS OF COOPERATION:
- Political relations:
- Both countries have undertaken high level exchanges over the years. For instance, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Cairo in Sept, 2022 and held bilateral talks.
- Trade relations:
- India-Egypt Bilateral Trade Agreement has been in operation since March 1978 and is based on the Most Favoured Nation clause.
- India was the 6th most important trading partner for Egypt in FY2021-22. The trade between India and Egypt achieved a record high of USD 7.26 billion in 2021-22, according to the MEA.
- Around 50 Indian companies have invested in various sectors in Egypt with a combined investment exceeding USD 3.15 billion. Egyptian investments in India are to the tune of USD 37 million.
- Defence cooperation:
- India and Egypt had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to further enhance bilateral defence cooperation. Since June 2021, more than 15 defence delegations have visited Egypt
- Indian Air Force participated in Tactical Leadership Programme of Egyptian Air Force Weapons School in 2022.
- Cyclone 2023, between Indian Army and Egyptian Army
- Exercise Desert warrior, between the two Air forces.
- Egyptian delegation was present in the Multilateral Indian Naval Exercise MILAN-2022
- Humanitarian aid:
- As part of the vaccine diplomacy, in 2021, India supplied Egypt with vaccines manufactured in India. Egypt dispatched three planes with medical supplies to India during the second wave of COVID-19.
- Capacity building:
- India provides grants-in-aid projects, which includes Pan Africa Tele-medicine and Tele-education project in Alexandria University and IT Centre in Al Azhar University.
- Since 2000, over 1300 Egyptian officials have benefited from ITEC and other scholarships. India has also organized a special course for Egyptian diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).
- Technical cooperation and assistance:
- S&T cooperation is implemented through biennial Executive Programmes and Scientific Cooperation Programme between CSIR and NRC (Egypt).
- ICAR and the Agricultural Research Center of Egypt are working in the field of agricultural research.
- With Egypt having establish EgSA (Egyptian Space Agency) in 2019, both sides have agreed on drafting a new MoU to include EgSA and cover other developments in the sector and is in process.
- In 2018, Egypt signed the International Solar Alliance (ISA) framework agreement as a founding member and ratified it in January 2019.
- Cultural cooperation:
- The Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) has been promoting cultural cooperation between the two countries, through regular activities such as Hindi, Urdu and Yoga classes, seminars, film shows and exhibitions.
- At present, the Indian community in Egypt numbers at around 3200. They are either employed with Indian companies or are professionals with various multinationals.
WHY THE RENEWED ENGAGEMENT WITH EGYPT?
- Pivotal position:
- Egypt sits as a pivotal state at the crossroads of the Middle East, Africa and Europe, which are regions with which India is aspiring to have stronger engagements.
- Also, Egypt has the capacity to influence geopolitics through the Suez Canal. Since about 90% of India’s trade is done through sea, strong ties with Egypt is vital.
- Occupy US’s vacuum:
- With the US turning its attention to the Pacific and China rapidly increasing its presence in the Middle East, Delhi’s strategic partnership with Cairo opens the door for a larger Indian role in the region.
- Tackle extremism:
- After the Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt and the Gulf countries have come together to confront challenges from extremist forces in the region, like the Muslim Brotherhood. This will help India’s efforts towards tackling terrorism.
- Regional stability:
- India and Egypt had signed a security cooperation agreement in September 2022 which enabled them to engage at tri-service levels and in cooperating on various aspects of security and defence.
- Further political and security cooperation can stabilise the neighbourhood and tackle threats like piracy and drug trafficking.
- Strengthen ties with the Middle East:
- Egypt is an important strategic partner for the Gulf countries. The renewed engagement with Egypt can help consolidate India’s new coalition with the Middle East, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
- Boost defence exports:
- Egypt has expressed its interests in procuring the Tejas light combat aircraft, radars, Dhruv light attack helicopters and other platforms from India.
- Diversify energy basket:
- Renewed engagement will provide India an opportunity to showcase its growing strength in the field of green hydrogen. Indian companies, like Gurgaon-based ReNew Power, have shown interest in investing in Egypt’s clean hydrogen projects.
- Also, substantial gas reserves have been discovered in the Mediterranean basin.
- Investment opportunities:
- Egypt is battling a serious economic crisis and has reached out to India for investments and participation in mega infrastructure projects like the development of Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) and metro line in Alexandria.
- Also, Egypt is considering the possibility of allocating a special area for the Indian industries in SCZONE. India can take advantage of this centre for production and re-export to markets in Africa and the Mediterranean where Egypt has free trade agreements.
- Promote agri exports:
- Russia-Ukraine conflict has threatened Egypt with a shortage for wheat, as 80% of it was imported from Russia and Ukraine. To meet the shortfall, 61,500 mt was exported by Delhi in May 2022 despite an embargo on wheat export.
- The Indian response also paved the way for Egypt to register India for regular wheat exports to the country.
- Counter Pakistan:
- Egypt plays a balanced role at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation where Pakistan has floated several resolutions on Kashmir and other internal Indian issues but failed to receive robust support from Egypt.
AREAS OF CONCERN:
- Lack of a comprehensive policy:
- Unlike the Act East policy, India has not established a comprehensive West Asia policy despite the regions having similar geopolitical significance.
- Rising Chinese presence:
- Bilateral trade between China and Egypt currently stands at USD 15 billion. Egypt’s prevailing economic vulnerability could increase the clout that China enjoys over the pivotal country.
- China sees the Suez Canal as a vital part of its Belt and Road and Maritime Silk Road projects. China has also taken advantage of the opportunities at SCZONE by building an industrial estate called Teda Suez.
- Arab- Iran Conflict:
- Egypt’s relations with Iran are believed to be dependent on the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia. The differences between Iran and the Arab world hinder India’s engagement in all parties in the region.
- Nascent defence industries:
- Indian industries are in early stages of venturing into defence manufacturing and military production. To cater to the domestic and external demands, production companies will have to accelerate their manufacturing and delivering capabilities.
An invitation to be the Republic Day chief guest is highly symbolic from the Indian government’s perspective. The visit of Egyptian President is expected to further strengthen and deepen the time-tested partnership between India and Egypt. To carry forward this momentum, both countries need to develop a long-term framework of greater cooperation in political, security, economic and scientific fields.
Q. There are strong economic and strategic reasons for India to have strong relations with Egypt. Discuss.