BRIG RAJIV MAHNA
What should be the nature of relationship with a country which is located at the junction of two seas, Mediterranean and Red, and wields considerable influence in two regions, Africa, and West Asia? Obvious answer to this leading query –‘Warm and Mutually Benefitting’.And facilitating factor in this case is that country being discussed, Egypt shares deep civilisational links with India.
EgyptianPresident Abdel Fattah El Sisivisited India last week and was Chief Guestof the country’s Republic Day celebrations. A contingent from Egypt Army also participated in Republic Day parade.Earlier, India hadinvited Egypt as a guest country during its G-20 Presidency. Bilateral relations between the two countries were elevated to the level of Strategic Partnership during the Egyptian President’s visit.Delegation level discussions covered a wide range of subjects including, food and energy securities, trade and commerce, science and technologies, counter terrorism and of course, defence cooperation. It may be recollected that during September 2022 visit of Indian Defence Minister to Egypt both countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) to further enhance bilateral defence cooperation and agreed to focus on joint training, defence co-production and maintenance of equipment.
Do these events indicate revival of Indo-Egypt ties? Fact is that since their independence, both the countries have maintainedclose relationship. Besides their collective commitment towards Non-Aligned Movement, of which they are co-founders,Egypt would surely remember India’s supportduring the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis.In recent times, when Egypt was facing food crisis due to Ukraine conflict, India which has banned wheat export,treated Egypt’s case as an exception and allowed the grain supply. During second COVID wave Egyptprovided medical stores to India. So, this phase of relations can be described as ‘refresh moment’ for making necessary adjustments in the world which is slowly but surely moving towards multi-polarity. In West Asia as well as other regions, India is exhibiting keen interest in working with mini-lateral groupings. Specifically in West Asian region,formation of I2U2 grouping and India-France-UAEMinisteriallevel trilateral meeting held on the side-lines of UNGA Meeting last year clearly indicate Indian preferences.
Analysis of the current developments in Indo-Egypt relations should also take ‘China Factor’ in account.Egypt and China had already elevated the bilateral relationshipto ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ in 2014. Just a few days ago China’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited five African countries and Cairo was his last stop. China has invested billions of dollars in Egyptian state-led projects such as the Suez Canal Economic Zone and the New AdministrativeCapital. According to an IMF report issued in second week of January, Egypt is set to receive a $1 billion loan from the China Development Bank duringfiscal year 2022-23 to help close its financing gap.Egypt is a part of BRI grouping andthe flagship project of China-Egypt cooperation within the BRI framework is the Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone (SETC-Zone).Beijing is the largest investor in this projectwhich aims to transform the Suez region into a logistical and industrial hub for nearby markets in Europe, West Asia and Africa.
Apparently, India is pursuing the relation-ship with Egypt, without bothering about the Egypt-China relations. A Good Choice.India is aware of the ‘springboard’ potential of the SETC-Zone for trade with EU and Africa and would like to be a part of this manufacturing and trade ecosystem. In addition to harbouring ambitions about the export of defence and other Indian productsto Egypt, India also relies in itscontinued supportin OIC, particularly on Kashmir issue.Mohammed Soliman, director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington,has an interesting perspective about this relationship. He is of the opinion, that “A partnership with India is the right policy choice for Cairo in preparation for a weaker China scenario in the next few decades”.
Signing off for the week, by quoting an Egyptian proverb “A beautiful thing is never perfect”.
Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime.
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“We Said It”
- Recently, India communicated necessary assurances to the IMF without waiting for the response of other creditors of Sri Lanka. This Indian action will help Sri Lanka in negotiating bailout package with IMF.
- Firm Indian commitment for prompt response to Sri Lankan economic crisis wasdiscussed in the article titled; ‘Preserving the Dignity of Tear Drop’ published in ‘Beyond Boundaries’ column on 04 April 2022.