India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilisations, have had a long history of engagement. The edicts of Ashoka are about his relations with Egypt under Ptolemy II. In the recent era, Mahatma Gandhi, as well as Saad Zaghloul, shared common goals for their countries’ independence, a relationship that would blossom into an incredibly close companionship between President Nasser and India’s first Prime Minister Nehru, leading to the signing of a Friendship Treaty between the two nations in 1955. The Non-Aligned Movement, led by Nehru and Nasser, grew out of this relationship.
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Egypt has historically been one of India’s most important African trading partners. The India-Egypt Bilateral Trade Agreement, which is based on the Most Favoured Nation clause, has been in effect since March 1978, and bilateral trade has risen more than fivefold in the last ten years. In 2018 – 19, bilateral trade totalled $4.55 billion USD. Despite the Pandemic, trade volume fell only slightly to the US $ 4.5 billion in 2019-20 and US $ 4.15 billion in 2020-21. (Egypt’s exports to India have been valued at US$ 1.89 billion, while imports from India were valued at US$ 2.26 billion, leaving India with a positive trade balance of US$ 372 million).
In 2021 – 22, bilateral trade increased significantly, reaching $7.26 billion, a 75% increase over FY 2020 – 21. India exported $3.74 billion worth of goods to Egypt during this time, a 65% increase compared to the same period in FY 2020–21. At the same time, Egypt’s exports to India increased by 86% to $3.52 billion USD. Mineral oil/petroleum, fertilisers, inorganic chemicals, and cotton were the top imports into India during the years 2021 – 2022, while buffalo meat, iron and steel, light motored vehicles, and cotton yarn have been the top exports from India to Egypt. India was Egypt’s third-largest export market, its sixth-largest trading partner, and its seventh-largest export destination, as reported by the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Egypt faced a shortage of wheat, which is imported from these two countries for 80% of its needs. India was added to the list of accredited nations that can supply Egypt with wheat on April 14, 2022, ending a long-standing Non-Tariff Barrier. Despite difficulties in finishing the shipment due to India’s ban on wheat exports, India was able to clear the first shipment of 61,500 metric tonnes of wheat for Egypt on May 17, 2022.
India’s Investments in Egypt
Over 50 Indian companies have made investments totalling more than $3.15 billion in Egypt’s various industries. TCI Sanmar, with the largest investment of US$1.5 billion, Alexandria Carbon Black, Kirloskar, Dabur India, FLEX P. FILMS, SCIB Paints, Godrej, Mahindra, and Monginis are all significant Indian investors in Egypt. Indian businesses operate in a variety of industries, including apparel, agriculture, chemicals, energy, transportation, and retail. In total, 35,000 Egyptians are employed directly and indirectly by these businesses. In the energy and telecom sectors, Indian firms like L&T and Sterling & Wilson have also completed projects in Egypt. The majority of these Indian businesses, including TCI Sanmar, also have future investments planned.
Egypt’s Investments in India
ElSewedy Group (smart electrometers), KAPCI Coatings (car paints), Modern Waterproofing Group / Bitumode (waterproofing membranes and protection boards for the construction industry), and 700 Apps are among the Egyptian companies that have invested US$37 million in India (I.T Services).
The bilateral relationship has been significantly influenced by technical assistance and cooperation. Over 1250 Egyptian government employees have benefited from ITEC and other initiatives like the ICCR and IAFS scholarships since 2000. Additionally, we have planned special courses at FSI for Egyptian diplomats and LAS diplomats in 2019. Additionally, diplomats from Egypt and the LAS take part in the Professional Course for Foreign Diplomats that we host at FSI.
Scientific and Space Cooperation
ICAR and the Agricultural Research Center of Egypt collaborate scientifically in the area of agricultural research. Through biennial Executive Programs and the Scientific Cooperation Program between CSIR (India) and NRC, “Science & Technology” cooperation is carried out (Egypt). A new area of India and Egypt’s cooperation is in the field of space. Since a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2008, ISRO and NARSS (the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences) have held joint working group meetings and discussions. Egypt established EgSA (Egyptian Space Agency) in 2019, and a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering EgSA and other developments in the sector has been agreed upon and is currently being drafted by both parties.
International Solar Alliance
Egypt joined the ISA in March 2018 and ratified the framework agreement in January 2019. Egypt is currently processing the revised Framework Agreement for ratification. Egypt has also backed the UNGA’s decision to grant ISA Observer Status in the middle of October 2021.
Based on a long history of contact and collaboration on bilateral, regional, and international issues, India and Egypt have a strong political understanding of one another. On August 18, 1947, the establishment of diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level was jointly announced. Both nations were founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and have worked closely together in multilateral fora. Since 2022 will mark the 75th anniversary of India and Egypt’s diplomatic relations, it bears special significance.
Since the 1980s, four Indian Prime Ministers have visited Egypt: Shri Rajiv Gandhi (1985), Shri P. V. Narasimha Rao (1995), Shri I. K. Gujral (1997), and Dr. Manmohan Singh (2009, NAM Summit). On behalf of Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak travelled to India in 1982, 1983 (for the NAM Summit), and once more in 2008. High-level communication with Egypt persisted following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and the country’s former president, Mohamed Morsi, visited India in March 2013. The Egyptian Foreign Minister visited India in December 2013, and the External Affairs Minister (EAM) travelled to Cairo in March 2012.
A number of ministerial and official visits from India to Egypt, and vice versa, occurred between 2015 and 2019. Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (IC) for Civil Aviation, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, made the most recent ministerial trip from India to Egypt in November 2019. He met with the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry and gave the keynote address at the opening of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) sponsored “Regional Conclave on India – West Asia and North Africa (WANA)”. From 2010 to 2019, there were also visits exchanged between NSAs and various parliamentary delegations. 2020 saw no significant engagements because of the Covid-19 pandemic. General Mohamed Ahmed Zaki, the Minister of Defence and Military Production and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, participated virtually in Bengaluru’s IOR Defence Ministers Conclave in February 2021. Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, the chief of the air staff, made the most important visit in 2021. From November 28 to December 2, 2021, he was in Egypt.
The Arab-India Cooperation Forum’s third Senior Official Meeting took place virtually on January 12, 2021. The meeting was co-chaired by Shri Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV & OIA), and Amb. Mohamed Abu Al-Kheir, Assistant Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the League of Arab States (LAS). The discussions centred on issues of common concern at both the regional and global levels, such as cooperation in the field of treatment and diagnosis to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as expanding partnerships in the areas of the economy, trade and investment, energy and environment, agriculture and food security, science and technology, media, human resource development, and so on.
At various levels, there are several mechanisms for bilateral institutional dialogue. In December 2015, the 11th round of Foreign Office Consultations was held in Delhi. In December 2016, the first Joint Working Group on Cyber Issues met in New Delhi. In April 2017, the 4th Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology was held in New Delhi. In November 2017, the ISRO-NARSS Joint Working Group held its second meeting in Cairo. The seventh round of the Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) was held in March 2018 in New Delhi, with an Egyptian delegation led by FM Shoukry in attendance. The 8th Joint Defence Committee (JDC) met in New Delhi from December 26-29, 2018, and the 9th JDC met in Cairo from November 5-7, 2019.
The India-Egypt Workshops on Nanotechnology and Agriculture-Biotechnology took place in Mumbai in January 2019 and Shillong in September 2018, respectively. In March 2019, the 4th Joint Trade Committee met in New Delhi. In March 2019, the 1st JWG on Agriculture, Plant Quarantine, and Animal Quarantine also convened concurrently with the 4th JTC. After a break of more than a year, the bilateral mechanisms were resumed on March 3, 2021, with Videocon hosting the JWG on Trade and Investment. Agriculture, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and renewable energy were the main topics of discussion at the 5th Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology, which was held virtually on October 5, 2021. On March 14, 2022, the first JWG on drugs and pharmaceuticals met, and on April 11, 2022, the first JWG on health and medicine met. A Joint Working Group on Environment is also expected to be established.
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Egypt and India have friendly defence ties. The Air Forces worked closely together in the 1960s, making joint efforts to develop a fighter aircraft. Between 1960 and 1984, IAF pilots also trained Egyptian pilots. Since 2015, there have been a number of high-level exchange visits by defence delegations, including those of the Indian defence minister, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, and the Egyptian minister of defence, General Sedki Sobhi, in 2017 and 2018. The Covid-19 Pandemic caused a lull that started in late 2019. However, since June 2021, seven defence delegations have travelled to Egypt, with Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari’s trip from November 28 to December 2, 2021, being the most significant. He presented a keynote speech on “Strategic Air Intelligence in confronting new and non-organized threats” at the Egypt Air Power Symposium. He then went to the Egyptian Defense Exposition (EDEX). Joint Defence Committee (JDC) activities control the majority of current defence cooperation. Nine JDC meetings, followed by exchange activities, have been held alternately in both countries since 2006. JDC’s ninth gathering took place in Cairo in November 2019. A total of 10 events are planned from each side annually.
Regularly available courses include the DSSC and NDC, which train Indian defence officers in India and train Egyptian officers there. Additionally, study tours to Egypt are frequently undertaken by delegations from the NDC, War Colleges, and CDM. In October 2021, a study tour from NDC visited Cairo and met with the head of AOI (Arab Organization for Industrialization). At Alexandria Naval Base, the delegation was also welcomed by the Egyptian naval chief.
In March 2019, Egypt took part in the multinational training exercise for friendly African nations that was held in Pune. Dessert Warrior, the first IAF-EAF Joint Tactical Air Exercise, took place from October 29 to October 31, 2021. From India, 5 Mirage-2000 aircraft and 1 IL-78 tanker took part in the exercise. Advanced manoeuvrings, including air-to-air refuelling, were part of the exercise. The first-ever joint Special Forces exercise “Cyclone 1” between Egypt and India, scheduled to take place in Jodhpur from January 8 through 22, 2022, has been postponed. During the Multilateral Indian Naval Exercise MILAN-2022, which took place from 25 February to 4 March 2022, two Egyptian Navy officers took part. The defence establishments of both countries are becoming more eager to cooperate closely as a result of recently intensified defence exchanges.
Indian Navy Ships perform port calls at Egyptian ports. The Talwar class-guided missile frigate INS TABAR made a port call to Alexandria in late June 2021 and participated in PASSEX with the Egyptian Navy Ship TOUSHKA, which included replenishment exercises and helo deck landing operations. In September 2021, INS TABAR and ENS ALEXANDRIA both took part in PASSEX exercises that included cross-deck helicopter landings, joint live firing, maritime interdiction contingencies, vessel boarding, and other complex manoeuvres. During their five-nation overseas deployment, ships from the Indian Navy’s First Training Squadron (IN Ships Tir, Sujata, and CGS Sarathi) made port calls in the Red Sea Naval port of Safaga, Egypt from May 2 to May 4, 2022. On May 4, 2022, as they departed Safaga harbour, the three Indian ships took part in a Maritime Partnership Exercise (MPX) with Egyptian Naval Ships Abu Qir and Zuber Ibn El Awam. The ships engaged in communication drills, various manoeuvres, formations, and replenishment techniques to improve interoperability during the exercise. As part of LOKAYAN 22, the sailing training ship for the Indian Navy, INS TARANGINI, made a port call in Alexandria from May 17 through May 20.
In order to transport IAF and IN aircraft to and from Russia, Europe, and the USA, Egypt regularly offers transit services.
Indian DPSUs and a few private companies took part in the first Tri-Services Defence Exhibition (EDEX-2018), which was held in Cairo in December 2018 and was organised by the Egyptian Armed Forces. High-level delegations from Egypt subsequently attended DEFEXPO INDIA 2020 in Lucknow and Aero India 2019 in Bangalore in February 2019 and 2020, respectively. The second Egyptian Defense Exhibition, or EDEX-2021, took place in Cairo in November or December of that year. Ten Indian businesses and organisations, including the DRDO and Defense PSUs like HAL, BDL, BEML, and Munitions India Ltd., took part in EDEX and displayed their cutting-edge goods. For EDEX 2021, the CMD of HAL and the CEO of BDL also travelled to Egypt and met with senior officials. DEFEXPO-2022, which was supposed to take place in Gujarat in March 2022, has been pushed back.
Through regular events like Hindi, Urdu, and yoga classes, seminars, film screenings, exhibitions, and involvement in regional cultural activities, the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) has been fostering cross-cultural cooperation. As part of its outreach initiatives, MACIC frequently hosts India Days in universities and governorates throughout Egypt. A recent “India Day” was held on November 16, 2021, at the Command & Staff College in Cairo. About 500 officers from more than 20 countries heard the ambassador speak on Indian foreign policy. An Indian cultural programme and food festival were presented after this. For the past 25 years, MACIC has held a painting competition called “Glimpses of India” for children in Egypt. With a record-breaking 16,000 schoolchildren participating, the 2019 edition of the painting competition received an overwhelming response. A delegation of 12 Indian artists attended the competition’s Silver Jubilee celebration in October 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic prevented the competition from taking place in 2020 and 2021, though. While India and Egypt engaged in a variety of cultural activities and exchanges in 2019, the activities essentially ceased in 2020 and the first half of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result, the eighth iteration of India by the Nile, an annual festival celebrating Indian culture, was held in Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum, and Port Said in March 2020 but on a smaller scale. An 11-member cultural group called “Anveshana Society for Performing Arts” visited Egypt in early December 2021, sponsored by ICCR, after a gap of almost 2 years. The troupe wowed the crowds with performances at Ismailia in Port Said, the India-Bangladesh Maitri Diwas celebrations at Baron Palace, and the Sayed Darwish Theatre in Alexandria. In Egypt, yoga is extremely popular now.
The 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth was marked by commemorative events organised by the Egyptian Embassy on October 2, 2018. Numerous events that spanned over a year were held in the year 2018 and 2019, including an exhibition and LED projection on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, a picture exhibition called “Kanu’s Gandhi” at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Cairo Opera House grounds, “Satya Vaarta,” a roundtable discussion on Gandhi at MACIC in November 2018, etc. At Cairo University and Ain Shams University, seminars featuring “Gandhi Katha” (a Hindi presentation on Mahatma Gandhi’s Life and Message) were held in February 2019.
On October 2, 2019, at the League of Arab States (LAS) headquarters, a celebration honouring Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday and the International Day of Nonviolence was held. Egypt Post published a commemorative stamp honouring Mahatma Gandhi on November 6, 2019. In Cairo, Egypt has also dedicated a street to Mahatma Gandhi (Cairo also has 2 other roads named after Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Zakir Hussein). There are also three busts of Mahatma Gandhi in Egypt, one each in Cairo at the Supreme Council of Culture, Zamalek’s Al-Horreya Park, and Alexandria’s Bibliotheca Alexandria. On November 6, 2019, Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (IC) for Civil Aviation, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, unveiled the bronze bust at Al-Horreya Park to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday.
India’s Independence Day
As part of the AKAM celebration, MACIC organised the “India @75 Quiz” from August 1 through August 14, 2021, in advance of the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence Day, which falls on August 15. Competitions for patriotic songs and paintings were also held in this context. The iconic Cairo Tower, the tallest building in North Africa, was also illuminated by the Embassy with the Indian National Flag on August 15, 2021, in the evening. The Indian tricolour had never before been used to illuminate Cairo Tower. A “Bollywood Music and Dance Evening” for the diplomatic community in Cairo were also organised as part of the AKAM celebrations, and it was well-attended.
Indian Community in Egypt
There are currently about 3200 Indians living in Egypt, the majority of whom are concentrated in Cairo. Additionally, there are a few families in Alexandria, Port Said, and Ismailia. The majority of Indians work for Indian businesses or for various multinational corporations as professionals. The Mission collaborates closely with the community and offers support to the Indian Community Association in Egypt (ICAE). The majority of the 400 Indian students studying in Egypt attend Al Azhar University, which has about 275 students. The remaining students attend Cairo University and Ain Shams Medical University, which have about 80 students.
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