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India takes yet another step to rekindle ties with regional powerhouse Egypt 

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is visiting Egpyt on Saturday at the invitation of his Egyptian counterpart Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry. Both ministers had recently met in New York in September (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar)

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will be on a two-day visit to Egypt starting Saturday as India continues to put an age-old partnership between two of the world’s oldest civilizations on a new trajectory.  

Jaishankar’s first bilateral trip to the African nation comes nearly a month after his colleague and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Cairo to pave way for the enhancement of military and security cooperation between the two countries.

Just around the same time, Jaishankar too met Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in New York during a high-level meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, while meeting with Rajnath Singh on September 19, stated that his country takes pride in the close historical ties it has with India and aspires to activate the partnership “commensurate with their capabilities in all fields”.

As India continuously grows its capability to manufacture advanced cutting-edge technologies and systems in the defence sector under the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, Egypt is one of the several countries which has maintained its interest in acquiring made-in-India Tejas fighter aircraft for its air force.

With Egypt proposing joint manufacturing of military hardware with India, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries during the defence minister’s visit was described as a “milestone event” by New Delhi.

Rajnath Singh Egypt
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo, last month (Image courtesy: Spokesman of the Egyptian Presidency)

In New York, Shoukry hoped that India’s upcoming G20 Presidency in 2022-23 – Egypt has been invited as a ‘Guest Country’ by the Narendra Modi government – will not only strengthen consultation and coordination mechanisms between the two countries but also contribute to restoring activity in the global economy and ensure that the “negative repercussions of the current international tensions” are contained.

He also welcomed the Indian companies’ interest in investing in Egypt, especially in the field of green hydrogen production in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) in Ain Sokhna located in the Gulf of Suez, northwest of the Red Sea.

Discussions between Jaishankar and Shoukry will continue, this time in a much more detailed way in Cairo as they sit down for talks on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest over the weekend.

Jaishankar will also be interacting with the Indian community based in Egypt, including students, and address a gathering of the Egyptian and Indian business communities.

Egypt has also been one of India’s largest trading partners in Africa and the promotion of bilateral trade, commerce and investments will be one of the focus areas during the EAM’s visit.

Modi Egypt
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China (Image courtesy: PIB)

The MEA, in a statement on Thursday, mentioned that India-Egypt bilateral trade touched a record high at US$ 7.26 billion during FY 2021-22. Indian investment in Egypt exceeds US$ 3.15 billion. Over 50 Indian companies are actively present in Egypt in a range of sectors like manufacturing, chemicals, energy, infrastructure, retail, etc.

“EAM’s visit to Egypt will provide an opportunity to review the entire gamut of our bilateral and multilateral relations and to exchange views with the Egyptian leadership covering the whole range of issues of mutual interest. The visit provides an opportunity to deepen cooperation and explore new initiatives in the bilateral partnership,” said the ministry.

The warm and friendly relations between the two nations, which are underpinned by historical and cultural linkages, are expected to get only stronger in the coming times.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to visit Egypt after coming to power in 2014. The closest he came to visiting Cairo was in March 2020 but the trip had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As things pan out, it may not be a big surprise if PM Modi visits the largest city in the Arab world soon.

Also Read: Egypt proposes joint manufacturing of military hardware with India