Egypt’s President Abdel Fatteh El Sisi received a warm welcome from India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, after his arrival in New Delhi as chief guest at the country's Republic Day celebrations.
Mr El Sisi had travelled to the Indian capital late on Tuesday, accompanied by a high-level delegation, including five ministers and senior officials.
The Egyptian leader was welcomed by Mr Modi and President Droupadi Murmu at the Indian President’s residence, ahead of bilateral talks and Thursday's Republic Day events.
“I welcome President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and his delegation to India,” Mr Modi said at a joint press briefing.
“He will be the chief guest for our Republic Day celebrations.
“It is a matter of immense pride and happiness for all Indians. I am also happy that a contingent of the Egyptian Army will also take part in our parade.
“India and Egypt are two of the world’s oldest civilisations. We have historical ties and in the past few years, our mutual relationship has strengthened. I give its credit to President El Sisi.”
The leaders held bilateral meetings on regional and global issues of mutual interest, including terrorism.
Egypt said ahead of the visit that it was looking to strengthen economic relations between the countries and review opportunities for Indian investment in Egypt.
They exchanged commemorative postage stamps to mark 75 years since the establishment of India-Egyptian ties.
Mr Modi said the leaders discussed developing frameworks to elevate the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership covering political, security, defence, energy and economic areas.
“We should elevate our bilateral ties to strategic partnership and for that, we have decided to prepare a long-term comprehensive framework for co-operation on political, defence, security and technology,” the Indian leader said.
“India and Egypt are concerned about terrorism worldwide and we agree that terrorism is the biggest danger for humans. We both believe that cross-border terrorism requires strict investigation and for that, we will continue our efforts to alert the international world.”
Mr El Sisi visited New Delhi in 2015 for the India-Africa Forum Summit and in 2016 on a state visit, but this is the first time an Egyptian leader will be a guest at Republic Day celebrations.
India and Egypt have historically shared a friendly relationship, which New Delhi says is marked by cultural and economic links and deep-rooted ties.
Experts said the Republic Day invitation was an excellent opportunity for India to work with Egypt on common multilateral, economic and military goals.
“Egypt is important for us both for economic and strategic reasons,” Navdeep Suri, a former Indian ambassador to Egypt and a distinguished fellow at Delhi-based think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told The National.
“It has always had a very substantial clout in diplomatic affairs. It is useful for us to have a better alignment of our policies and approaches in the region.”
Since taking office in 2014, the government of Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has emphasised its non-aligned foreign policy and focus on improving relations with global powers.
For India, Egypt is a crucial partner. It is the most populous country in the Arab world — with more than 109 million inhabitants — a major economy and one of New Delhi’s major trading partners in the region.
Bilateral trade between New Delhi and Cairo was $7.26 billion in the 2021-2022 fiscal year — up 60 per cent on the 2020-21 figure.
Indian companies have invested about $3.15 billion in Egypt, including in the chemicals, energy, textile, garment, agribusiness and retail sectors.
India is keen to make a push in exploring business opportunities in Egypt’s ambitious Suez Canal Economic Zone, a 460km independent emerging international commercial hub with six ports between Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
New Delhi’s regional rival China has already invested over $1 billion in these projects.
These are a crucial part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative — an economic corridor connecting Asia, Europe and Africa through sea and land networks.
“Economically, Egypt is strategic as it has free trade agreement with other parts of the world. If Indian companies set up there, it will help them globalise and access new markets in Europe, Africa and in the Arab world,” Mr Suri said.
“China has already made moves in the last seven or eight years. India can’t say China has taken control in a pivotal country, but to counter that it needs a co-ordinated approach both by the government and the industries,” he said.
New Delhi is also focusing on strengthening military ties with Cairo, aiming to sell its combat aircraft, light helicopters and missiles to Mr El Sisi during his visit.