#Egypt seeks more economic engagement with #India

New Delhi : As its foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, arrives in India this week, the Egyptian government is keen on India stepping up trade and economic ties with the north African country, especially in its ambitious Suez Canal Corridor Project that is aimed at becoming a bridge between Africa with Asia and earning billions of dollars for the politically-transforming country in the process.

Fahmy will be in India Dec 4-6 on a stand-alone visit, seeking to push trade and investment. Though Egypt went through a period of turmoil after its first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist Party, was deposed in July, the interim government has provided stability, according to knowledgeable Arab diplomats.

Egypt is keen to provide employment to its youth that would get a fillip after the Suez Canal Project gets off the ground. In fact, Morsi during his visit to India in March had pushed for India to join the project during his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The military-backed interim government has revived the Suez Canal Corridor project.The 190-km project aims to turn the banks of the Suez Canal into a “global economic zone”. Egypt is set to soon finalize a tender for this.

While the foreign minister is travelling to China, Japan and South Korea, his visit to India would be a stand-alone one – emphasising the importance that Egypt places on its ties with India, said on Arab diplomat. “The role of India, the wisdom of its leadership, is appreciated by all,” an Egyptian diplomat here said, not wishing to be identified.

The diplomat dismissed reports of instability in his country, saying there is “100 percent stability”. Explaining the ouster of Morsi, the he said the people of Egypt were angry at the increasing attempts at Islamisation of the country’s secular ethos by the Muslim Brotherhood cadres.

The year 2014 would be a crucial year for Egypt, as well as for India, with both headed for elections. Egypt is set to hold parliamentary elections between February and March and a presidential vote in early summer, while India is to hold parliamentary polls in April-May.

Egypt, say its diplomats, is determined that “religion should be away from political life” and would never let it creep back into the constitution. The rights of women and minorities would be assured in the new constitution.

Emphasising that India should grab the opportunity to boost economic ties with Egypt, Egyptian officials say Russia has just finalised a $4 billion arms deal with Egypt while Cairo is in talks with Beijing for setting up the country’s first nuclear power plant in El-Dabaa to tackle the country’s energy crisis.

Egypt has appreciated India’s stand of being apolitical and not taking sides in its internal affairs which its diplomats aver is fast returning to normalcy.

India and Egypt are among the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and the two countries shared a very close relationship till the 1960s during the time of Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Egyptain president Gamal Abdel Nasser. But the relationship cooled off thereafter and the 30-year reign of previous president Hosni Mubarak were not marked by close ties.

Egypt-India bilateral trade has risen from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $5.4 billion in 2012. India exports meat, car components and engineering goods to Egypt, and imports cotton, oil and gas and fertiliser.


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