Egyptian President visits India to elevate bilateral relations, including defence ties


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi touched down in New Delhi on 24 January for a three-day state visit focused on elevating the relationship to the level of strategic partnership between Egypt and India, in an effort to ramp up defence, political, energy and economic ties.

President Sisi was accompanied on the three-day visit by a high-level delegation including five ministers and senior officials to participate to wide-ranging talks, which were expected to end with the signing of half a dozen agreements.

India has been keen to further expand ties with Egypt and bilateral trade between the two sides has been on an upswing in the last few years. According to Indian Ministry of External Affairs, trade achieved a “record high” of $7.26 billion in 2021-22, while more than 50 Indian companies have invested around $3.15 billion in various sectors of the Egyptian economy, including chemicals, energy, textile, garment, agri-business and retail.

Besides the strengthening of economic relations between the two countries, the invite was also intended to foster collaboration in the fields of defence, cyber security and counterterrorism. To this aim, 68-year-old Sisi was also invited as “Chief Guest” at the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January. This is the first time an Egyptian head of state has been invited to the ceremony, which marks the 75 years of diplomatic ties between Cairo and New Delhi. A 180-personnel military contingent from the Egyptian Army was expected to participate in the parade. The trip came as India is increasingly working with Egypt and Gulf allies to deal with maritime tensions.

Naval and air units from both states have conducted joint war games. The two also share intelligence to fight terrorism. A specific joint exercise – the first-ever to take place between the special forces of both armed forces – has just been carried out in the deserts of Rajasthan. Named Cyclone 2023, it engaged contingents of both armies “to undertake joint planning and drills for Special Forces operations as well as surgical strikes on terrorist camps,” ThePrint recounts.

However, the defence ties between India and Egypt are not that recent and have particularly thrived in the field of aviation. Back in the 1960s, India and Egypt founded the non-aligned movement in world affairs and launched joint development programmes. The visit of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to the Egyptian Air Force Museum in Cairo in 2022 was an opportunity to recall this, as they witnessed the Helwan 300 – a 1960s fighter jet jointly developed by India and Egypt long before the ‘Make in India’ initiative is implemented. India’s interest at that time was in developing the E-300 turbojet engine for its own indigenous HF-24 Marut fighter. The project was, however, scrapped in 1969 for a variety of reasons: “financial considerations, Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 war and the Soviet Union offering its fighter jets to India”, The Hindu recalls.

During Indian MoD visit to Cairo, the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to further enhance bilateral defence cooperation focusing on “joint training, defence co-production and maintenance of equipment”. While both Indian and Egyptian Air Forces also operate the French-origin Mirage and Rafale jet fighters, as for now, negotiations for Cairo’s purchase of Indian Tejas light combat aircraft have been underway for months. Among others, Egypt has also expressed interest “in acquiring a range of military hardware including the Advanced Light Helicopter, Light Combat Helicopter and Akash surface to air missile systems” the newspaper indicates.

Defence cooperation between India and Egypt therefore seems to have a bright future while India, once the largest importer of armaments, now even offers assistance to Egypt in developing its own domestic defence manufacturing base.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.