Today’s geopolitics presents a unique opportunity for India and Egypt to strengthen their ties. India-Egypt relations is reaching new heights in fulfilling their potential. Under the new framework of “strategic partnership”, the two sides aim to bolster cooperation on defence, security, economic trade, scientific advancement and technology sharing. Egypt’s diplomatic posture as a facilitator and connector to the African and European markets makes it a lucrative and indispensable strategic partner.
To commemorate 75 years of Egypt-India relations, Egypt has issued a postage stamp. The two countries have been sharing a common global vision of peace and stability since the Cold War era and maintaining friendly relations with Russia and the United States. India and Egypt have refused to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, advocating dialogue and diplomacy for an amicable solution.
India invited the Egyptian president to the Republic Day celebration, and both leaders decided to bolster their relations into a ‘strategic partnership.’ For the first time an Egyptian president was invited as chief guest to the Republic Day. The participation of Egypt’s military contingent in the Republic Day parade connotes the close and trusted relationship between the militaries of two nations.
Egypt is gradually emerging as a natural partner for India to expand its strategic interests and strengthen India’s “Look West Policy” in the region. Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation on cybersecurity to combat maritime piracy and transnational terrorism. Egypt has a robust military; according to the 2023 Global Firepower Index, Egypt ranks 14th out of 145 countries in military power.
The two leaders, Prime Minister Modi and President El-Sisi perceive terrorism as the most serious security threat to mankind and condemn the use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, calling for “zero tolerance” against terrorism. Egypt is inclined to procure defense equipment from India. As India is focusing on self-production and indigenisation, Egypt seems like a profitable partner as a market for Indian defence platforms.
Egypt is committed to expanding its economic and trade cooperation with India. India-Egypt bilateral trade amounts to nearly $7.26 billion in 2021-2022, a 75% year-on-year increase. The two governments have decided to increase bilateral trade to $12 billion over the next five years. Egypt is a prominent political actor in West Asia and North Africa (WANA). With a population of around 103 million, it is one of the most populous countries in Africa and a major market for India’s regional investments. It is a gateway connecting Asia with Europe. Egypt also enjoys bilateral trade agreements with major Arab and African countries, adding value to India’s interests in the region. India is poised to become a major investor in Egypt, with total investments exceeding US$3.2 billion. About 50 Indian companies are already investing in renewable energy and green hydrogen.
In recent developments and as per the joint statement from the two countries, Egypt is considering the possibility of allocating a special area of land for Indian industries in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCEZ), enabling potential Indian companies to arrange masterplan proposals to take advantage of the investment opportunities available in Egypt. Egypt is a country heavily dependent on imports, with much of its food coming from Russia and Ukraine. The ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine has disrupted supply chains for wheat and other key commodities. India could posture as a favorable and find new avenue for its food and agricultural exports in Egypt.
Egypt’s Suez Canal is one the world’s busiest maritime trade route and is a crucial waterway in connecting India to the West. The canal is an important trade route from Asia and West Asia to Europe, transporting more than $1 trillion in goods annually. About 12% of global trade passes through the Canal, carrying $9.5 billion worth of goods every day. Of the total 4.8 million barrels of crude oil transported through the canal, half a million barrels of crude oil are shipped to India daily.
Egypt and India are important partners at various multilateral forums like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). However, India and Egypt still have a room to engage in other multilateral and trilateral structures for better geopolitical gains. With India entering into quadrilateral and trilateral partnership (France, India and the UAE) it gives opportunity for Egypt to become a partner in this initiatives. The initiatives can be expected to focus on transnational and transoceanic disputes and ensure close cooperation between the states.
China’s growing presence in Egypt is a matter of concern to India. Apart from India as a good friend, the African country has another close ally, China. A large part of India’s strategic interests in West Asia focused on, the same trade channels targeted by China’s BRI to deepen the cooperation. India’s intervention in Egypt perhaps reduces Egypt’s reliance on China and rejuvenate India-Egypt relations. India’s outreach towards Egypt is mainly to find a reliable strategic partner with an independent foreign policy outlook in West Asia. Egypt is a potential player in the rising India-West Asia partnership by virtue of its geopolitical location.
India considers its maritime safety as a major priority and its security begins with entering the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea. Forging robust ties with Egypt creates a win-win situation for India regarding security and economic prosperity. For New Delhi, the future of its national interest hangs on access to crucial maritime trade routes. Egypt’s four-theater (Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, Africa, and West Asia) advantage makes reviving the bilateral relationship a foremost importance for New Delhi as India attracts more partners to pave the way to form a balancing independent foreign policy in international arena.