The earliest recorded incident of Indo-Egyptian diplomatic relations goes back to 3rd Century BC when Indian Emperor Ashoka the Great despatched his envoys to the court of Egyptian ruler Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who in turn sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Patliputra.
In modern times, the bonds between the two newly-Independent nations became particularly strong under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Nasser of Egypt.
Nehru and Nasser were the founding members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) during the Cold War years. India's unequivocal condemnation of the English, French and Israeli attack on Egypt during the Suez crisis of 1956 was highly-effective in securing the trust and friendship of the largest nation and one of the most significant powers of the Arab world.
Indo-Egyptian bilateral relations went into a state of limbo over an alleged incident of diplomatic faux pas during the New Delhi NAM summit of 1983. It took quarter of a century for the ice to thaw when President Hosni Mubarak returned to India in November 2008. A return visit was paid by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Egypt during the NAM summit in July 2009.
Thereafter, Mubarak's successor, Mohammed Morsi, visited New Delhi in 2013 to boost the Indo-Egypt bilateral ties before his removal from office in the same year.
These successive incidents of regime change, however, had hardly any bearing on Egypt's relationship with India.
The current and the sixth President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, has been, in fact, making earnest and sincere overtures to New Delhi ever since his assumption of office in 2014.
On Thursday, President Sisi graced the Republic Day parade in Delhi as its Chief Guest, marking his third visit to the national capital following two successive sojourns in 2015 and 2016.
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to visit Cairo, the visits of Defence Minster Rajnath Singh (September, 2022) and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (October, 2022) have resulted in the conduction of Desert Warrior, the first-ever joint tactical exercise, by the air force of the two countries.
Cyclone 2023, the 14-day joint exercise by the Indian and Egyptian armies, also a first of its kind, in Rajasthan was yet another significant milestone in bilateral defence cooperation.
In a remarkable gesture of goodwill, Egypt had despatched three plane loads of medical supplies, including 300,000 doses of Remdesivir, when India was severely hit by the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2021. Next year, India reciprocated by sending shipments of wheat to Egypt when the country's wheat import from Ukraine was halted due to the Russian invasion.
Egypt also holds enormous prospects as an investment destination for India. The Indian companies that have invested in Egypt include the Chennai-based Sanmar group (caustic soda plant in Port Said), Aditya Birla group (carbon black facility in Alexandria), Asian Paints, Dabur, UFlex Films, Bajaj Auto and others.
The feedback given by these companies has been positive, testifying genuine concerns and interests of the Egyptian authorities in making their country's environment conducive to international business.
The Suez Canal Economic Zone, built under the joint partnership between Egypt and China, deserves special mention in this regard. Although the 455 sq km SCZONE, located near the Egyptian city of Suez, was built for Chinese companies to set up their industries. It offers lucrative prospects to Indian companies as well. Gurugram-based ReNew Power has signed an agreement to set up a green hydrogen facility in the zone. Other Indian companies, expectedly, will follow the suit.
Egyptian President Sisi's latest visit can provide an excellent opportunity to the Indian business establishment to secure their foothold in this strategically located industrial estate that offers, inter alia, attractive tax incentives, cheap and abundant land and easy to access to the European markets.
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