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What lessons on democracy, the economy, natural energy, defense, tourism, IT, and education can India and Egypt share?

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India and Egypt are 4931 kilometres apart. Never do the two nations share a border, language, religion, or custom. However, due to their extensive history of communication and collaboration on bilateral, regional, and international problems, India and Egypt have a close political mutual understanding. On August 18, 1947, the establishment of diplomatic ties was jointly announced at the ambassadorial level. Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nehru’s closest buddy, was a good leader who made a mistake once by waging war against Israel. That put an end to his stellar career as a politician.

More concrete evidence of Egyptian-Indian contacts has recently emerged. When they had surplus land, both nations established villages along the banks of the river as they developed along its course. Both India and Egypt had built-in land defences that kept outsiders out. To direct the water where they needed it, both India and Egypt used a particular sort of irrigation.

While India’s economy depends on the agricultural, industrial, banking, and service sectors, Egypt’s economy is mostly dependent on the media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism. Egypt had a GDP per capita of $3,876 in 2021 compared to India’s $7,333 (estimated); both countries are emerging capital markets. Egypt and India are classified as “lower-middle-income” countries by the World Bank because their GDP per capita is lower than the global average.

Even though the Egyptian economy during Mubarak’s rule experienced an economic crisis after experiencing one of the best growth rates in decades in the years prior to the Arab ‘spring revolution’ the recent boom in economic activity has put Egypt on course to see the growth of 5.5% in 2021. The growth rate for India, on the other hand, was 8.9% in 2021. However, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a negative impact on both nations’ economies.

The World Bank has advised India to concentrate on public sector reform, infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, the abolition of land and labour regulations, financial inclusion, encouraging private investment and exports, education, and public health in order to achieve sustainable economic development. This advice is based on the World Economic Outlook database (October 2022). On the other side, the biggest concerns of Egypt are currently related to environmental issues, including water scarcity, air pollution, damage to historical sites, problems with animal care, flaws in its waste management system, etc.

There may be many common interests between the two nations; where India and Egypt share close political understanding based on a long history of contacts and cooperation in bilateral, regional, and global Democratic Systems.

Family is an important part of Egyptian culture and an important aspect of Egyptian life. Because Egypt is predominantly a collectivist nation, people typically put their family’s or community’s needs before their own. Therefore, Egypt should have a true democracy, or a direct democracy, where the people are in charge directly. Political participation by the general public is essential. Egypt now supports the ideals of a liberal, democratic, and secular government system following the 2011 revolution and the military takeover in July 2013. Egyptians continue to favour democracy as a concept, think democratic values are crucial, and prefer democratic rule.

According to Pew Research Center’s survey from 2014, a slim majority of Egyptians (54%) believed that having a stable government was more important than having a completely democratic one when there was a need to choose between the two. It looks like the current democratic model, however, is a good representation of Egyptian society.

The world’s leaders currently value India’s strategic stance toward the political changes occurring in emerging nations like Egypt because it is the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous country. Both India and Egypt can play a significant role in establishing a new International order.
As co-founders of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt and India had a close relationship up to the 1960s under Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Economic relations and other areas of mutual interest between the two countries are gradually developing.

Economic Partnerships

While India is Egypt’s sixth-largest economic partner, Egypt has historically been one of India’s most significant trading partners on the African continent.

Egypt needs India’s assistance to stabilise and rebuild its economy as it goes through one of the most turbulent periods in its history. Through creative buyback and currency swap agreements, as well as ICT uses, this alliance should improve commerce and investment. India can do a lot to help the general public increase its capacity by encouraging social entrepreneurship and corporate responsibility. Egypt’s efforts to recover from its current situation would be greatly aided by India’s participation in job creation opportunities, increasing agricultural output, and energy solutions.

Bilateral commerce between Egypt and India increased from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $5.4 billion in 2012. However, trade increased between the two nations by 75% year over year in FY 2021–2022, totalling $7.26 billion. Among other things, India exports to Egypt mineral fuels, oils, distillation products, oil seeds, oleagic fruits, grains, seeds, fruits, aluminium, meat, automobile components, and engineering items. The main imports from Egypt that India purchases include crude oil, LNG, salt, cotton, inorganic chemicals, oilseeds, etc.

In an effort to expand trade, Egypt has just begun buying wheat from India. Egypt has the advantage that commerce has been fairly balanced on both sides. India became the world’s pharmacy thanks to the excellent examples it set by successfully regulating Corona in its own country and organising record-breaking vacations for two billion people. There is therefore a lot of room for trade between the two nations in the pharmaceutical sector.

According to S. Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, India and Egypt have increased their defence and security cooperation and will look at prospects in the areas of connectivity, trade, and renewable energy. According to the foreign minister of India, who met with the Egyptian minister in New Delhi, Indian companies have spent more than $3 billion in Egypt, till 2021, and more investments totalling about $1 billion are in the works.

Recently, Egypt has been enduring a food crisis and inflation due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. Egypt has been importing cereal grains and oilseeds from Eastern Europe for decades. India and Egypt have agreed to collaborate on agricultural research, extension, cooperatives, agricultural finance and credit, fertilizers, modern irrigation systems, and agricultural machinery. According to the article “India and Egypt: Economic Reconstruction and Stability, “India may aid in supporting the development of high-yield crops, among other things.

One of the worst energy crises in recent memory is also affecting Egypt. Industrial production has been severely hampered, particularly in heavy industries like cement and fertilisers that have long operated below capacity.

There is a claim that solar energy can help Egypt resolve its escalating energy crisis. Egypt can benefit greatly from India’s lower-cost solar energy harvesting techniques. Suzlon Energy could be a helpful partner for energy solutions in Egypt. In addition, India and Egypt have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a green hydrogen plant in the Suez Canal Economic Zone with an investment of $8 billion and a capacity of 220,000 metric tonnes per year.

Egyptian Investments from India

Over 450 Indian firms had registered offices in Egypt as of June 2022, of which 50 are working across a range of industries and had a combined investment of more than US $3.15 billion. More than half of them are joint ventures or wholly owned Indian subsidiaries. According to a report on India-Egypt bilateral trade and investment, the main industries drawing investment include apparel, agriculture, chemicals, energy, autos, and retail.

Some of the prominent projects of Indian firms in Egypt include TCI Sanmar ($1.5 billion), Alexandria Carbon Black, Kirloskar, Dabur India, Flex P Films, SCIB Paints, Godrej, Mahindra, and Monginis, among others. In addition, Indian companies Sterling & Wilson and Larsen & Toubro India (L&T India) have completed projects for Egypt in the energy and communications sectors.

Egyptian Investments in India
It is important to note that Egypt has provided India with FDI of US$37 million. The Egyptian El Sewedy group built a plant in Noida (the state of Uttar Pradesh) in 2013. Additionally, KAPCI Coatings made a $15 million investment in its automobile paint manufacturing plant in Bangalore. Gujarat serves as the location of Bitumode’s Modern Waterproofing Group’s production facility, which serves the construction sector. Last but not least, M/s 700 Apps, a Telangana-based IT company based in Egypt, has started doing business there and plans to expand shortly.

Defence Partnerships
This spectrum of partnership could be financially beneficial for India’s defence industries, which are developing and manufacturing a wide range of goods at a rapid rate, such as radars, patrol boats, light combat aircraft (LCAs), light combat helicopters (LCHs), missile systems, electronic warfare systems (EWS), tanks, and military vehicles. Egypt has already expressed a willingness to purchase Indian-developed Akash missile systems as well as BrahMos cruise missiles (jointly developed with Russia).
According to reports, Egypt has expressed interest in buying Tejas, a single-engine LCA made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Long-term exports of these large weapons systems can enhance India’s reputation as an arms supplier and help it generate more revenue from arms exports, which is essential for both its economic development and the funding of defence research and development (R&D) programs. It would be possible for India to deliver some high-calibre missiles to Egypt. Additionally, on September 20, 2022, India and Egypt signed an agreement to advance their defence relations.

Collaboration with Universities and Colleges
There is a lot of room for cooperation between India and Egypt at prestigious higher education institutions like IIT, regional engineering colleges, IIMs, etc. The top universities in India are investigating the possibility of opening campuses abroad. IIT-Delhi’s petition to construct facilities in Saudi Arabia and Egypt was made a few years ago, and as a result, the Union Ministry of Education established a committee.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar asked the visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister to take into account permitting collaborations with esteemed universities like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) after the government revealed its plans to expand IITs abroad.

ICT Application Sharing
Since 1985, Egypt has made considerable investments in the field of information technology. Due to the development of a robust information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, Egypt has become recognised as a regional and global hub.

The growth of e-governance in Egypt may benefit from Indian lessons learned in digitalization and information technology. As part of the India Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, India has constructed a fibre-optic network to enable satellite communication, telemedicine, and tele-education.

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, one of India’s top IT organisations, and the Indian government worked together to establish Al-Azhar University‘s centre of excellence in information technology.

Tourism Collaboration
At a seminar on “Sustainable Tourism: New Avenues for Development” held in 2018, the Indian Embassy’s Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) stated the opinion that Egypt and India both have enormous potential growth in their tourism industries. That seminar’s objectives were to increase tourism between Egypt and other countries and to educate Egyptians about their rich cultural diversity. It should be mentioned that social media is a crucial tool in the modern world for promoting travel to both nations.

Participants also recommended that one of the best methods to encourage Indian tourism in Egypt is by screening more Bollywood films. Film festivals themselves may be organised on occasion. It’s also been suggested by several that fantastic wellness and wedding tourism experiences may be marketed between nations. According to experts, there is a significant opportunity for India and Egypt to significantly increase tourism. Travel agencies have a key role to play in this promotion of tourism by creating various discounted travel incentives in both countries.

Two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in the areas of tourism, science, and technology were signed by Egypt and India in 2015. In terms of tourism, hospitality, and human resource development (HRD), both governments aimed to strengthen their countries’ bilateral collaboration. Furthermore, Egypt and India worked together to preserve Egyptian mummies in Indian museums.

Due to the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the entire world is currently experiencing a turbulent period. Most European and South American nations are already witnessing recessionary trends that are making people’s lives more challenging. It will be advantageous for both Egypt and India in this situation to expand and enhance collaboration and relationships in many areas such as business, defence, tourism, industry, and cutting-edge technology.

The “Made in India” programme and India’s start-up firms are hot topics right now. Egypt might gain a lot from India’s expertise in these areas. High economic and social value can be derived from India’s cooperation with Egypt in the areas of promoting agricultural productivity, solar energy solutions, increasing defence needs, and projects, notably in new technology and business solutions.

Prof. Dr. Prem Lal Joshi (former NRI Professor of Accounting and currently Editor-in-Chief of the IJAAS)
Prof. Dr. Tariq H. Ismail, Cairo University, Egypt
(The views expressed in this article are those of the authors).

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