On his way to the G20 leaders summit in China, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is on his second official visit to India, where he is meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee, a host of other Indian officials, and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Arriving with his official entourage in New Delhi for a three-day visit on Thursday, Sisi discussed means of enhancing cooperation in joint security and counter-terrorism with Modi and his foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj. He also set the ambitious goal of more than doubling the volume of bilateral trade, investment and commercial links between Egypt and India.
Sisi’s meeting with Kerry is reported to have focused on attempts to resolve several conflicts in the Middle East — including civil strife in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian issue — and support for Egypt’s agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF.)
Egypt’s state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that their meeting Thursday “touched on Washington’s support for current talks between Egypt and the IMF for obtaining a loan within the framework of America’s keenness on the stability of Egypt.”
MENA added that “Kerry briefed President Sisi on the outcome of consultations” between USA and Russia “to end the Syrian crisis peacefully,” to which Sisi is reported to have expressed his support for “uprooting terrorism in Syria.”
To India’s governmental and business leaders, Sisi expressed his aspirations to increase bilateral trade between Egypt and India increase its current volume from an average of US$3 billion to $8 billion in the near future.
The privately owned Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported that Egypt’s ambassador to India, Hatem Tageldin, called upon Indian entrepreneurs “to tap into opportunities” in petrochemicals, textiles, automobile components, mining and renewable energy, and to invest in the Suez Canal’s newly expanded “economic corridor.”
India’s ambassador to Egypt, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, reminded a council of business leaders from both countries that 52 Indian corporations, including 25 joint ventures, with $3 billion worth of investments, were operating across Egypt.
Bhattacharyya told the India-Egypt business council meeting that with over 90 million consumers, Egypt’s economy is “the second largest in Africa, and a $286 billion economy, [and] Egypt represents immense potential and scope.”
State-owned Egyptian Al-Akhbar news portal reported that over a dozen Egyptian businessmen have accompanied Sisi to India for the visit, and are discussing with Indian investors the establishment of a factory in Egypt to manufacture tractors and other agricultural machinery (with investments amounting to $40 million.)
Al-Akhbar added that another major joint contract, to be discussed on Saturday, aims to establish a factory in Egypt to locally manufacture tok-toks (or auto-rickshaws, as they are known in India).
Privately owned Youm7 news portal reported that Sisi addressed Indian governmental and business leaders on Friday regarding Cairo’s plans for “legislative and administrative measures aimed at providing an attractive investment climate, pointing to Egypt’s aspiration to receive more Indian investments in various fields.”
Citing a presidential spokesperson, Alaa Youssef, Youm7 reported that during his visit to India Sisi has also stressed “the keenness of the [Egyptian] state in terms of consolidating democracy, citizenship and upholding the rule of law and state institutions’ values.”
Sisi also spoke generally of enhancing Indian-Egyptian counter-terrorism efforts through the UN and improved bilateral relations. Quoted in The Hindu news portal, Sisi told Swaraj that he wished to raise counter-terrorism cooperation to “a whole new level” and claimed that Egypt and India are stabilizing forces in their regions.
Indian news portals reported that the leaders of Egypt and India signed an joint maritime transport agreement in New Delhi on Friday so as to step up security cooperation on the seas.
Modi is reported to have commented that “growing radicalization, including violence and the spread of terror, are a real threat across regions.”
This joint maritime transport agreement reportedly aims to facilitate informational and operational exchanges so as to combat terrorism. Indian outlets added that the two countries have agreed to cooperate in cyber security, drug trafficking, transnational crimes and money laundering.
In response, the privately owned Middle East Monitor (MEMO) claimed that the governments of both Egypt and India are fueling unrest rather than promoting stability. “Sisi and his military-backed government have used the pretext of terrorism to crack down on tens of thousands of Egyptians who oppose his rule,” it wrote Friday. “Police and security forces fire on protesters, torture them, detain them in inhumane conditions and sentence them in mass trials.”
MEMO added that “Human rights abuses in India were brought into the spotlight in July when Indian troops fired live ammunition, pellet guns and teargas on protesters in Kashmir. Many had to undergo surgery to remove steel pellets from their eyes.”
On Friday Prime Minister Modi posted photos of his meeting with Sisi and wrote on his Twitter account that “our meeting today was fruitful.” Modi added: “President Sisi & I agreed to build on multiple pillars of our cooperation & deepen the economic & people-to-people ties between our nations.”
He went on to Tweet: “India is ready to be a reliable partner in fulfillment of Egypt’s developmental, economic & security goals.”
Sisi’s first visit to India took place last October, when he attended an India-Africa conference.