The visit of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to India as a guest of honour in India's Republic Day celebrations came at a crucial time for the two developing nations decades long partnership.
Historically both countries have shared civilizational links for centuries before forging diplomatic relations in 1947 and have been leading multidimensional cooperation for decades as well. Apart from being the founding members of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), the two emerging countries also went on to sign a Friendship Treaty in 1955 which further solidified the aspirational outlook of the two nations in enhancing their bilateral relations.
New Delhi's relation with Cairo in the past decade alone has seen significant positive developments all across different sectors. The two countries have been enhancing upon their relations through forging various partnerships in the realm of defence cooperation, energy security and trade investments amongst other domains.
For decades, both India and Egypt have remained traditional trading partners. India currently is Egypt's third-largest export market and is also its sixth-largest trading partner. Although there remains more scope to expand bilateral cooperation across sectors, India's trade with Egypt witnessed a 75 per cent increase in the previous financial year with bilateral trade reaching up to $7.26 billion recently.
The Bilateral Trade Agreement signed in 1978 between the two nations has remained a vital prospect in facilitating cooperation between the two countries.
Given the enhanced role of the two countries in setting global agendas, aspects including in ensuring food security, furthering the voice of the Global South, combating climate change and promoting international peace are domains where great headway can be made.
Moreover, from India's perspective, greater bilateral relations with Egypt incorporate the will to seek an equitable world order and more importantly cater to the needs of the African nations that pursue for an integrative role in international governance.
In terms of defence cooperation, the two countries have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in September 2022, during the Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh's visit to Egypt. The MoU included closer cooperation in the field of military training, joint exercises, and defence production amongst others.
The visit played a significant role in propelling the relations between the two countries in the specific domain of security and intelligence operations; a feat achieved for purpose of invigorating India's role as a reliable defence partner to the whole of Africa, if not only to the northern region of the continent.
With the intensification of relations, the avenues of defence and security have emerged as high priority domains leading to military-to-military commitments including industry cooperation and joint exercises while also enhancing overall defence and security cooperations. In continuation of these defence talks, Egypt's special forces also held a joint exercise with their Indian counterparts in Jodhpur in January 2023, signalling the growing collaborative effort between the two strongest militaries in the world.
In light of such efforts, it is only fitting if such measures are fully capitalised upon. Domestic defence industries are an aspect both countries are rigorously exploring and India and Egypt should focus on enhancing both their domestic production in a way that benefits the two partners through knowledge sharing as well as commercial sales. This proposed outlook is also projected by the fact Egypt is one of the many countries to have shown a keen interest in procuring India's indigenous Light Combat Aircraft.
More importantly, Egypt also offers a gateway to many other regions that could benefit India's trade apart from providing a strong market for Egyptian trade. Egypt's vital geographical location provides access to Asia, Africa and Europe and is an avenue that could potentially facilitate India's trade links with some valuable commercial markets as well.
Moreover, strategically important sea links border the country including the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea which can potentially create investment opportunities for Indian businesses in the region as well. These routes also offer the shortest sea link between the continents as well as the western world. Thus, forging greater bilateral with the North African country is as much a trading decision as is a geopolitically strategic one.
Although, least to state that minor obstacles still persist in expanding intra-regional cooperations between the two emerging countries, the perspective of mutually beneficial growth should surely take prominence during the scheduled meetings that are to take place in the upcoming visit. The leadership at the top in both the nations to have played an invaluable role in concretising the relations beyond specific sectors and has invigorated a deep-rooted relationship through various means that can sail through hinderances that arise in the course of the renewed relations.
Both Egypt and India are on a path of reshaping the global world order and more specifically are altering the dynamics of their regions as well for the better development of their neighbourhoods. A common prosperous goal has already been laid down by both the countries
with Egypt leading the North African developmental trajectory and India with its remarkable growth potential that could elevate other developing nations on its path. Hence, it is not only desirable for both the nations, but is also in the larger interest of the global community that the two mutually aligned emerging nations work in tandem for the development of the global south as whole. Thus, enhanced bilateral relation between the two allies are more of a gateway to ensure that a sustainable global growth story is led by two of the oldest civilisational societies to have existed.
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