Egyptian President Sisi is Republic Day chief guest

A bold move by India to reach out to the Arab World by inviting the Egyptian President for India’s Republic Day event

A bold move by India to reach out to the Arab World by inviting the Egyptian President for India’s Republic Day event
A bold move by India to reach out to the Arab World by inviting the Egyptian President for India’s Republic Day event

A positive political message by Modi to the world leaders

A move towards becoming a Vishwaguru?

India sent a positive political message to the world by inviting Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the chief guest for the Republic Day in 2023, reflecting New Delhi’s continuing focus on the Arab world as it prepares for G-20 Leadership of a year of high-profile diplomatic initiatives. This message has different connotations at different levels. Such surprises also give an indication of the thought process of the Modi government and its approach toward international relations. The timing of the Egyptian President visiting India is to be read between the lines, as India wants to attain the status of Vishwaguru during the Amrit Kala run-up to 2047.

Many firsts on the Republic Day function

January 26, 2023, is to have many firsts to its credit. The Republic Day parade will be on the newly opened Kartavya Path. 75 Freedom fighters’ life is the theme of the 2023 Parade.

There will be a tableau that will enlighten spectators on India getting for the first time the G-20 Leadership and Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Due to space, security, and time constraint, only 7 states are chosen to have their tableaux. Droupadi Murmu, the second woman president in 15 years, will take the salute. First time at the National War Memorial there shall be a lightning ceremony by the Egyptian President. Narendra Modi has changed the concept of the Republic Day parade. At Netaji Subash Chandra Bose statue Modi will garland it before Prime Minister reaches the Salute base.

Focus on the Arab world

The first diplomatic coup of the Modi government ably assisted by Dr. S Jaishanker showcases to the diplomatic community that India is keen to resolve conflicts. The emergence of India in the international sphere like QUAD, SCO, then the UNSC recognizing that India is a victim of terror from neighbouring country Pakistan, are all the signal that the world recognizes Indian leadership. Drafting of the G-20 declaration was ably handled by the foreign office.

Modi govt chose Egypt as one of the nine guest countries invited to the G-20 Summit under India’s presidency in 2023.

Why Egypt?

After the recent Nupur Sharma-provoked controversies, and the possibility of a Uniform Civil Code being attempted in India, this has to be taken with these backdrops. Islam is practiced by 90% of Egyptians. Most Egyptian Muslims are Sunni and follow the Maliki school of jurisprudence, though all legal schools are represented. Shi’a Muslims make up a small minority.

An invitation as chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 is a signal honour reserved for the country’s close allies and partners.

The 68-year-old general-turned-politician is set to be the first Egyptian leader to be hosted by India for Republic Day celebrations though the two countries have enjoyed close relations in past decades.

The invitation to President Sisi appeared to be driven by several factors, including Egypt’s resurrection after a serious economic crisis, its independent foreign policy, and its growing role in Africa.

Egypt’s challenges

Egypt faced serious domestic political issues such as the Arab Spring protests and a severe economic crisis at a time when India’s focus moved towards the Gulf countries because of interests such as energy, trade, investments, and the presence of millions of expatriates.

Egypt seems to have recovered… and it has taken substantial initiatives that are independent of the Gulf countries, such as its position in Syria, Yemen, and Turkey. Egypt has also built its relations with Iraq and opened a dialogue with Iran.

Indian invitation to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade and celebration this year, according to people in the know, is a move that can boost New Delhi’s ties with the Arab world and Africa.

Egypt plays a critical role in countering the radical Muslim Brotherhood and is a gateway to the African markets and even some European markets. Egypt is keen to join BRICS and has become SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) dialogue partner this year.

Under Sisi, Egypt has improved its ties with Russia.

Commerce and trade

Turning to commerce and economic activities, Egypt and India as per the Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, exports to Egypt in India increased to 35.59 INR billion in September from 27.64 INR billion in August of 2022.

Over 450 Indian companies are registered in Egypt, of which around 50 are active in various sectors with a combined investment exceeding US$ 3.15 billion. Approximately half of them, are joint ventures or wholly owned Indian subsidiaries while the rest operate through their representative offices. Major Indian investments in Egypt include TCI Sanmar (with a value of US$ 1.5 billion), Alexandria Carbon Black, Kirloskar, Dabur India, Flex P Films, SCIB Paints, Godrej, Mahindra, and Monginis. Indian companies are present in a range of sectors like apparel, agriculture, chemicals, energy, automobiles, retail, and others.

Overall, these companies provide direct and indirect employment to approximately 35,000 Egyptians.

TCI Sanmar has announced plans for additional investments of US$ 400 million and Flex P Films also is increasing its investments by US$ 230 million in the coming years. There is also interest from Indian companies like Allengers (Medical Devices), Platinum Industries (Chemicals), etc to invest in Egypt in the months ahead to make use of FTAs that Egypt has with the regional countries in Africa, the EU, and the Middle East. An Indian startup company, ZoomCar in November 2021, launched its operations in Egypt with a fleet of around 50 vehicles.

Indian companies have also executed projects in Egypt. L&T successfully completed Toshka 2 – Wadi Halfa 220 kV double circuit overhead transmission line project. The Overhead Transmission Line was successfully energized on 13 January 2020. Previously, L&T executed 500kV/ 220 kV GIS substation projects for Egypt Electricity Transmission Co. in Ain Sokhna and Ras Ghareeb and 220kV overhead transmission line from Safaga to El-Qusair. These projects were worth a total of US$ 133.3 million. Sterling & Wilson (S&W) built a cumulative capacity of 250 MW of Solar PV plants in 5 projects in Aswan in 2018-19, worth a total of US$ 250 million, in addition to a data center project worth US$ 3 million. In February 2020 the company was awarded the contract to set up a cloud data center for Telecom Egypt in a US $30 million deal apart from a US $2 million worth Data Center deal with Vodafone Egypt. In December 2020, S&W took over the Kom Ombo Solar park project from Mahindra Susten following the latter’s withdrawal. In October 2021, Nuberg EPC was awarded a 500 TPD Sulfuric Acid Plant Project worth between US$ 50-100 million, its sixth turnkey project in Egypt.

The Indian-owned company, M/s Va Tech Wabag is currently working on 10 projects of water treatment in Egypt for different Egyptian entities bringing the number of projects to 20. The biggest project is the Madinaty Waste Water Treatment Plant with a capacity of 60,000 M3/ Day. The company employs the latest innovative technology to achieve very high efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Treated water is used for the turning desert landscape by watering green trees, bushes, etc. Around 8000 acres of desert land have been converted to a green belt thanks to using of recycled water by VaTech Wabag. The largest project completed by Va Tech Wabag is the Water Treatment Plant for the Suez Canal Authority in Port Said with a capacity of 133000 M3/ Day.

7600 Indians in Egypt

At present, the Indian community in Egypt numbers around 7600, most of whom are concentrated in Cairo. There are also a small number of families in Alexandria, Port Said and Ismailia. A majority of Indians are either employed with Indian companies or are professionals with various multinationals.

UAE-based retailer Lulu Group opened its first hypermarket in Egypt in December 2015 with an initial investment of around US$ 50 million. In October 2020, Abu Dhabi investment company ADQ was reported to have invested USD 1 billion into Lulu Group to develop more outlets in Egypt. In February 2021. Lulu opened the third branch of its hypermarket in New Cairo, providing 2000 job opportunities directly and indirectly through its three branches.

Egyptian Investments in India

Investments by Egyptian companies in India are about US$ 37 million. El Sewedy group established its presence in Noida (Uttar Pradesh) in 2013 for manufacturing smart electric meters. KAPCI Coatings set up their manufacturing plant in Bangalore (Karnataka) to produce car paints with an investment of US $ 15 million. Modern Waterproofing Group (Bitumode) is a multinational group of companies that are engaged in manufacturing a wide range of products for the construction industry including waterproofing membranes and protection boards. It has a manufacturing facility in Dahej (Gujarat). In 2021, an Egyptian IT company M/s 700 Apps started operations in Hyderabad and has plans to expand its operations in near future.

India and Egypt, during Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s visit, had decided to explore opportunities in new and renewable energy, trade and investment, education, tourism, and connectivity. They had agreed to promote independent thinking in a polarised world. Egypt has also been invited to the G-20 Summit, which is to be held here next year.

Egypt one of the largest trading partners with India

Egypt has been one of India’s largest trading partners in Africa. Trade between the two countries touched a record high of $7.26 billion in FY22.

More than 50 Indian companies are present in Egypt in sectors such as manufacturing, chemicals, energy, infrastructure, and retail. They use Egypt as a manufacturing destination for export to the EU, North America, and the Gulf countries, providing direct employment to some 38,000 Egyptians. Indian investments in Egypt have exceeded $3.15 billion. Indian companies are expected to invest another $800 million in the country.

Sisi and his Defence Minister, Mohamed Zaki, had held a discussion on military and security matters when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Cairo. Zaki and Singh signed an agreement for military cooperation. Special focus is also being given to the partnership between the air force of the two nations and there are reports that Egypt is keen to purchase India’s Tejas fighter jets.

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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R Rajagopalan is a veteran journalist. He reported Parliament proceedings for Dinamani and Vaartha. Since 1980. A well known face in English TV debates. He Widely traveled with Presidents and Prime Ministers.
R Rajagopalan


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