A grand revival: on India-Egypt Ties

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    In Context

    • Recently, India and Egypt upgraded their ties to a Strategic Partnership.

    More about the partnership

    • Egypt’s significance:
      • Egypt, the most populous country in West Asia, occupies a crucial geo-strategic location — 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal — and is a key player in the region. 
        • It is a major market for India and can act as a gateway to both Europe and Africa.
        • It also has bilateral trade pacts with important West Asian and African nations.
    • Upgrading the ties:
      • Upgrading to the Strategic Partnership is a significant move for India’s ties with the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) region that is long overdue, given their historical ties. 
      • The two sides are also pursuing closer cooperation in green energy, pharmaceuticals and defence, with MoUs in agriculture, archaeology and antiquities, and competition law.

    India-Egypt Ties

    • History: 
      • Ancient times:
        • India’s relations with Egypt began when the trade contacts between the two ancient civilizations grew along the banks of the river Nile and the river Indus.
      • Under Nehru’s leadership:
        • During the Cold War, India and Egypt were united over their desire not to become “camp followers” of either the U.S. or the Soviet Union.
        • In 1955, Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and India under Jawaharlal Nehru became the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement
        • During the 1956 War, Nehru stood supporting Egypt to the point of threatening to withdraw his country from the British Commonwealth. 
      • South-South Cooperation:
        • They were also instrumental in the G-77 grouping and “South-South Cooperation” initiatives.
    • Friendship Treaty & bilateral relations:
      • The two nations became even closer in the 1950s and concluded a historic Friendship Treaty in 1955. 
        • During the last couple of years, the traditionally strong bilateral relations enjoyed by the two countries have received an impetus with regular exchange of high-level meetings and contacts between the two sides.
    • Trade & Commerce:
      • Egypt has traditionally been one of India’s most important trading partners in the African continent.
      • The India-Egypt Bilateral Trade Agreement has been in operation since March 1978 and is based on the Most Favoured Nation clause.
      • Major Egyptian exports to India include:
        • Raw cotton, raw and manufactured fertilizers, oil and oil products, organic and non-organic chemicals, leather and iron products.
      • Major imports into Egypt from India are: 
        • Cotton yarn, sesame, coffee, herbs, tobacco and lentils.
        • Mineral fuel; vehicle parts; Ship, boat and floating structure; cuts of boneless bovine frozen meat; and Electrical machinery and parts are also exported from India. 
      • There is a significant Indian presence in almost every field in Egypt. 
    • Technical and Scientific Cooperation:
      • Technical cooperation and assistance have been a major part of the bilateral relationship. 
        • Egyptian candidates visit India under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC).
      • In the field of Scientific Cooperation, ICAR and the Agricultural Research Center of the Ministry of Agriculture & Land of Egypt signed a MoU for cooperation in the field of agricultural research in 1998.
    • Cultural Links:
      • The Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) was set up in Cairo in 1992 
        • It aims to promote cultural cooperation between the two countries, through the implementation of the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP)
        • The Centre, in addition to popularizing Indian culture through Hindi, Urdu and Yoga classes and the screening of movies, also organizes cultural festivals.
      • ‘India by the Nile’ festival:
        • It is a cultural festival celebrated annually in Egypt
        • It brings the essence of India through classical, contemporary, performing and visual arts, food and popular culture in a language that amalgamates diverse cultural and artistic strands. 
        • The festival is produced by Delhi-based M/S Teamwork Arts and supported by ICCR and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
    • The defence partnership:
      • It is being revived with among other developments the visit of the Indian Navy ship to Egypt, a month-long Air Force exercise and the visit of the Egyptian Air Force chief to India in recent months.

    Recent developments in the India-Egypt ties

    • Positions on Ukraine war:
      • More recently, the positions of India and Egypt on the Ukraine war have been extremely similar — refusing to criticise Russia’s actions but not condoning them either and calling for a diplomatic resolution.
    • India’s supply of wheat to Egypt:
      • India’s decision to supply wheat to Egypt, one of the world’s biggest importers that was hit by the blockade on exports from Russia and Ukraine last year, before the Black Sea Grain Initiative stepped in, won New Delhi much goodwill in Cairo. 
    • Egypt’s highest State Honour:
      • President El-Sisi who was India’s Republic Day chief guest this year, conferred Egypt’s highest State Honour, “The Order of The Nile”, on Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi.
        • The award is given to world leaders and those “who offer Egypt or humanity invaluable services”. 

    Way ahead

    • Bolstered by historical ties, and buffeted by present-day geopolitical turmoil, it is clear that India and Egypt are now essaying a closer relationship, one that looks both at future economies and autonomous foreign policies.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Upgrading to the Strategic Partnership with Egypt is a significant move for India’s ties with the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) region. Examine.