Egypt’s president meets visiting Indian prime minister to strengthen ties

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CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi met Sunday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is visiting Egypt on a two-day trip that focused on elevating bilateral ties.

Modi, who arrived in Cairo Saturday, is the first Indian prime minister to pay a state visit to Egypt in more than two decades. His visit came six months after el-Sissi was in New Delhi as an official guest at India’s Independence Day.

El-Sissi welcomed Modi Sunday morning at the presidential palace in Cairo. He awarded the visiting prime minister the Order of the Nile, Egypt’s highest state honor, according to Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry.

Egypt and India share deep ties that date back to the 1950s, when the two nations played key roles in founding the Non-Aligned Movement, which had sought an alternative path to siding with either with communism or capitalism at the height of the Cold War.

A statement from the Egyptian presidency said the leaders signed a declaration that elevated Egyptian-Indo ties to a “strategic partnership.” The statement, however, offered only generalities about bilateral ties and international topics.

Modi also invited the Egyptian leader to attend the G-20 summit, which India will host in September.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly left, and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi walk during a welcome ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, June 24, 2023. (Egypt’s Prime Minister’s Office via AP)

Following his talks with el-Sissi, Modi visited a historic mosque, Cairo’s Al-Hakim, which was recently renovated with the help of the India-based Dawoodi Bohra community.

Modi said that India and Egypt have been moving swiftly to increase bilateral trade to $12 billion annually within five years — that’s up from $7.3 billion in 2021-22.

“This is a remarkable year for our shared relations,” Modi told a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly on Saturday.

Earlier this year, both countries agreed to boost trade cooperation. India, the world’s most populous country, is one of the top five importers of Egyptian products, including crude oil and liquefied natural gas, salt, cotton, inorganic chemicals, and oilseeds. Major Indian exports to Egypt include cotton yarn, coffee, herbs, tobacco, lentils, vehicle parts, ships, boats, and electrical machinery.

El-Sissi and Modi, who came to power in their counties in 2014, have in recent years cultivated closer relationship. And over the last 16 months, they resisted pressure from the West to condemn the Russian war in Ukraine. Both Egypt and India have decades-old ties with the Kremlin.

“There is a change in the global geopolitical and geoeconomic atmosphere wherein both countries wish to play a defining role,” India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said during a visit to Cairo in September. “Egypt’s geostrategic location acts as a connecting link between Africa, West Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe and is also an important country from the Indo-Pacific point of view.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi speaks during a press conference in Yerevan, on January 29, 2023. (KAREN MINASYAN / AFP)

Modi arrived in Cairo Saturday after a four-day trip to the United States, where he held talks with President Joe Biden and top administration officials, addressed the Congress and met with top American executives.

His meeting with el-Sissi came as global attention focused on a brief rebellion by the head of Wagner Group, seen as the greatest challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his more than two decades in power.

Neither Modi not el-Sissi immediately commented on the rebellion.

On Saturday, the Wagner militia leader, Yevgeny Prighozin, called off his group’s advance on Moscow, citing his reluctance to be part of a situation in which “Russian blood will be shed,” as he has said in a statement.

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