India is planning to invite Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and step up business ties with one of the Arab world’s major powers, with which it has had long-standing ties, when a high-profile Indian business delegation heads to post-Mubarak Egypt next month.
More than a year after the so-called Arab Spring, India is also looking to explore new opportunities in post-Gaddafi Libya which is in the process of renovating its society and polity after a messy war last year.
With Egypt trying to reclaim its pre-eminent position in the Arab world, India signalled its desire to build bridges with the Muslim Brotherhood dispensation in Cairo when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Morsi briefly on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Tehran Aug 30.
Official sources say that Manmohan Singh conveyed India’s desire to build further the strong foundations of bilateral ties and explore new areas of cooperation.
The Manmohan-Morsi meeting took place barely days after the Egyptian president made his first overseas visit outside the Middle East to China. Beijing pledged a new $200 million credit and declared its resolve to tighten strategic partnership with Cairo.
India has taken note of the new regime’s focus on Beijing as Morsi asserts himself to distinguish from Hosni Mubarak’s pro-US tilt to craft a new Look East foreign policy which will focus on emerging Asian powers like India and China.
Against this backdrop, India is planning to invite the Egyptian president to India. Dates will be worked out soon, said the sources.
“As Egypt completes its transition towards democracy, we expect a substantial growth in our bilateral engagement,” says India’s Ambassador to Egypt Navdeep Suri.
“Leading figures in the new government have given clear indications of their desire to deepen Egypt’s economic engagement, with India as part of their own Look East policy. We are pro-actively engaged with all key actors in government, trade and industry to facilitate this process,” he said.
India’s globally ambitious corporate sector has also smelt the coffee and is determined not to miss out on fresh opportunities emerging in Egypt, whose strategic location makes it a bridge between Africa, Asia and Europe.
An industry source has disclosed that a high-profile delegation of CEOs of Indian companies, led by Atul Punj, will head to Egypt and Libya Oct 26 to discuss project proposals with their counterparts there.
The delegation will also comprise senior executives of corporate giants like the Essar Group, Sanmar Group and Apollo Group.
They are also expected to meet key ministers in Morsi’s cabinet who are handling finance, petroleum and infrastructure portfolios.
Around 45 Indian companies have already invested over $2.5 billion in projects in Egypt. In fact, Indian companies have shown their confidence in the country’s long term potential by staying put right through the post-revolution period.
“Fresh Indian projects have been launched since the Jan 25 revolution in sectors like petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, readymade garments and education. I expect these trends to strengthen with the return of political and economic stability,” said Suri.
In a sign of the continuing resilience of India-Egypt economic ties, two-way trade last year grew by about 45 percent. India’s exports grew by 35 percent despite the global economic downturn and the fluid situation in Egypt itself.
With Egypt speeding up its democratic transition, new areas of collaborations are emerging in areas of electoral technology and institution-building.
India and Egypt signed a pact to establish an institutional framework for their cooperation in the field of election management during the recent visit of Justice Hatem Bagato, secretary general of the Supreme Presidential Election Committee of Egypt.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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