Egypt President El-Sisi invited as chief guest on Republic Day; visit to strengthen focus on Agriculture, Defence

New Delhi: Egypt president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi̵7;s visit to Delhi next week is expected to strengthen focus on agriculture, defence sector and in many ways elevate the relationship. This is the first time that Egypt has been invited as a guest at India’s republic day parade, something that will firm up ties between Delhi and Cairo. Sisi will be arriving in Delhi on 24th January, with the main day of engagement on 25th when he will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan, and hold talks with PM Modi. Half a dozen MoU are expected to be signed after the meeting and ahead of the press statement by the 2 leaders. On 26th he will be attending the Republic day parade at the Kartavya path.

Remember on agriculture, last year for the first time Indian wheat reached Egypt after New Delhi gave an exemption for 61,000 tons. The wheat was sent to Egypt in tranches, with the first tranche in May 2022. Earlier Egypt had banned import of Indian wheat, but amid the supplies being impacted due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, remove any restrictions.

Egypt has shown interest in getting aircrafts-LCA Tejas, radar, missile like Akash missile system and DRDO’s Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW). Indian side is also open to sharing of technology and co production even as Delhi has been offering courses to Egyptian offers as part of capacity building. The country has been invited to participate in the Aero-India 2023 at Yelahanka Air Force Station, Bengaluru. Last year in sign of growing defense cooperation, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had visited the country during which a pact on cooperation in the sector was also signed.  

India has been invited for bright star exercises in September. Exercise Bright Star are joint training exercises led by United States and Egyptian forces in Egypt held every two years. India had participated in the exercises in 2000 as well.

This is President Sisi’s 3rd visit to India since taking charge in June 2014. He last visited India on a bilateral visit in September 2016, and before that attended the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in October 2015. It is also for the 5th time that India has invited a country from West Asia/Saharan Africa on republic day, after Algeria in 2001, Iran in 2003, Saudi Arabia in 2006 and UAE in 2017.

Education is another area which is expected to be in focus. The Egyptian side wants the setting up of an Indian higher education center like IIT. The country, with one of the largest economies in that part of the world and a large population is seen as the natural partner of choice for India. With several free trade agreements with countries in west Asia and Africa, it could become a gateway for Indian investors. Bilateral trade has expanded rapidly in 2021-22, amounting to 7.26 billion registering a 75% increase compared to FY 2020-21.

On the issue of counter-terrorism, both countries have a joint working group that will be meeting next month. Seen as a moderate and influential voice in Islamic world, the country has denounced terrorism several times. At the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, it has not supported Pakistani policies.