Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first state visit to Egypt on Saturday, landing in Cairo after departing the United States for two days of meetings with Egyptian business leaders and officials, including President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Sisi presented Modi with Egypt’s highest honor, the Order of the Nile, at a ceremony on Sunday. Modi reciprocated by inviting Sisi to attend the Group of 20 (G20) meeting India will host in September.
Modi and Sisi discussed India’s blossoming trade relationship with Egypt, which has grown from $7 billion to $12 billion over the past five years, and signed agreements for agriculture and archaeology. They also signed a joint declaration of “strategic partnership” with a commitment to deepen diplomatic and cultural ties.
India is a top buyer of Egyptian crude oil, liquified natural gas, salt, cotton, oilseeds, and chemicals, while Egypt buys Indian cotton, coffee, tobacco, herbs, and machinery. Indian companies have invested about $3.15 billion into Egyptian businesses.
Modi’s office said the two leaders “discussed further cooperation in G20, highlighting the issues of food and energy insecurity, climate change and the need for Global South to have a concerted voice,” as well as their mutual defense and security interests.
Unmentioned by either Modi or Sisi was a proposal made by Cairo in early June to open a multibillion-dollar credit line with India and pay for its purchases with Indian rupees, an important concession because Egypt’s foreign currency reserves are running low.
India was also reportedly willing to take much-needed fertilizer and gas from Egypt to settle trade debts. Egypt, in turn, is eager to buy more Indian wheat, but India has been reluctant to increase its exports because domestic prices are too high.
Many observers expected Modi and Sisi would announce the establishment of the credit line and rupee payment plan during Modi’s trip to Cairo, but apparently, the agreement is still on the drawing board. Neither leader commented on Egypt’s bid to join BRICS, the economic block of which India was a founding member.
“My visit to Egypt was a historic one. It will add renewed vigor to India-Egypt relations and will benefit the people of our nations,” Modi said as he departed.
After meeting with Sisi, Modi visited the Al-Hakim mosque in Cairo, which was renovated with assistance from the Dawoodi Bohra, a group of Shiite Muslims who mostly live in India.
“The PM has a very close attachment to the Bohra community, who have also been in Gujarat for many years, and it will be an occasion for him to again visit a very important religious site for the Bohra community,” India’s ambassador to Egypt, Ajit Gupte, said.
Modi also stopped at the Heliopolis Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery, where about 4,300 Indian soldiers who died fighting in World War 1 are buried, and completed his tour of Cairo by viewing the Great Pyramid of Giza.
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