PM visits the Great Pyramid of Giza at Cairo, in Egypt on June 25, 2023.
PM visits the Great Pyramid of Giza at Cairo, in Egypt on June 25, 2023.

By Jai Kumar Verma

New Delhi. 05 July 2023. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic two-day state visit to Egypt was over on 25th June 2023. Heads of two ancient civilizations met to reiterate faith in each other and take the age-old friendship forward. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi President of Egypt conferred Modi with ‘Order of the Nile’ which is the highest state honour of the country.

Modi tweeted that “My visit to Egypt was a historic one. It will add renewed vigour to India-Egypt relations and will benefit the people of our nations.” Modi was not only received by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly at airport, but he also accompanied him to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Modi visited Egypt at invitation of President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

 It is the first visit of Modi as Prime Minister and a bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister after 26 years. Both countries have signed agreement elevating India-Egypt bilateral ties to “Strategic Partnership”. Three Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) were also signed which are in the fields of agriculture, archaeology and antiquities and competition law.

Modi met Egyptian President El-SisiModi met Egyptian President El-Sisi, held roundtable meeting with the Prime Minister and also interacted with the Indian diaspora. Prime Minister Modi and Egyptian President held bilateral talks on different subjects including trade and investment, security, defence, renewable energy, cultural and people to people contact. Both the leaders emphasised on the need of deepening the ties between the countries.

President El-Sisi constituted an India Unit which consisted of seven members of Egyptian cabinet presided by Prime Minister Madbouly to hold detailed discussions with Modi and his entourage. The seven-member committee was formed to enhance closer ties with India and Modi had discussions with the committee.

In the second day of his visit beside signing the ‘strategic partnership’ agreement Modi also visited pyramids of Giza, received ‘Order of Nile’, visited Heliopolis War Cemetery which commemorates 3,799 Indian soldiers who served in British Indian army and were martyred during the First World War in Egypt and Palestine. Modi also visited Al-Hakim Mosque, met Egyptian businessmen including Hassan Allam and yoga practitioners namely Reem Jabak and Nada Adel. He also met Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam the Grand Mufti of Egypt who is a moderate and renounces fanaticism. Modi paid this reciprocal visit within six months of Egyptian President’s visit to India and has invited him again in September this year as a special guest at the G-20 Summit.

The current two-day state visit of Modi to Egypt is significant and termed as a game changer and would strengthen the bilateral ties. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi stated that “This is a very quick, reciprocal visit coming just within six months of President Sisi’s visit to India. We do expect and are confident that the visit will not just ensure continuing momentum to the relationship between our two countries but will also help it expand to new areas of trade and economic engagement”. The friendship between Nehru and Nasir which resulted into the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961 when the world was divided into the Eastern and Western Blocks, has gained strength and momentum with Modi.

PM visits egyptAt present Egypt which is passing through a difficult economic crisis wants more investments from India and also desires to diversify partnership outside the Western block. In February 2023 Egypt had a loan of USD 142.805 billion. In December 2022 International Monetary Fund approved loan of $3 billion to Egypt to improve its worsening economic situation. Muslim countries are not helping Egypt as it is a moderate Muslim country.

India wants to strengthen its position as a voice of Global South. India also wishes to have deeper access in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through Egypt, keeping in mind its limitations with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Egypt also wants to join BRICS which consist of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.  These are powerful economies of the world. India also wants to help Egypt in joining BRICS as in this way it wants to balance China and also wish to block entry of Pakistan which is its arch-rival and protege of China. Egypt’s is an important Arab country, and its support would be helpful to India to counter the malicious propaganda of Pakistan and other Muslim countries about the fictitious criticism of human right violations in Kashmir.

PM Modi met Grand mufti of EgyptEgypt’s economy was severely hurt by the pandemic and now because of Russia Ukraine war. The Russia-Ukraine war has created food crisis in Egypt because 80 percent of its food grain was imported from Russia and Ukraine. India helped Egypt and exported 61,500 metric tonnes of wheat despite the 2022 restrictions on the export of wheat. Besides food security Egypt needs investments from India so that it can meet its debt obligations. The Egyptian currency has depreciated heavily after the start of Russia- Ukrainian war. Many foreign investors have taken out billions of dollars from Egyptian markets after start of Russia-Ukraine war and Egyptian economy started sliding.

Egypt which is the most populous nation in MENA controls the strategic Suez Canal through which 12 percent of the world trade passes. India is also worried about rising Chinese influence in Egypt. China Egypt bilateral trade was $15 billion while India Egypt bilateral trade was only $7.26 billion. This made Delhi to increase its bilateral trade with Cairo. Egypt and China have defence relations too and in past China delivered B-6 bombers, F-6 fighters, and MiG 23 to Cairo. China also helped Egypt in developing missile systems. The defence forces of both the countries also perform joint exercises. China and Egypt have a ‘strategic partnership’.

PM visits EgyptExperts claim that as India wants to lead Global South hence it is widening its foreign policy. The Ministry of External Affairs has opened about 20 new missions in the African continent. Egypt’s significance in regional affairs including Palestine is also dwindled and it is keen to enhance it hence it also wants to reach beyond African continent.

North Africa and West Africa consist of oil rich nations. Egypt has both traditional fossil fuels as well as renewable energy. In 2018 Egypt’s proven hydrocarbon reserves were 3.3 billion barrels of oil and 77.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As Cairo encourages the international oil companies (IOC) to work and explore oil and gas in the country, at present about 50 IOCs are working in the country. India which is dependent on Middle Eastern countries for its energy demands, wants to diversify its oil purchase. Recently India purchased huge quantity of Russian oil on discounted prices. Middle Eastern countries raise prices of oil arbitrarily which hampers Indian growth. By developing close relations with Egypt, India wants to give a message to Middle Eastern countries that India is trying to diversify its oil import.

Both India and Egypt are suffering from terrorism hence they can work together and can share intelligence on terrorism. Solar energy is another field where there is lot of scope. Egypt is the biggest producer of solar energy in Africa while India is also trying to develop solar energy hence both countries have enough scope to work together. Both countries agreed to exploit untapped potentials including tourism, pharmaceuticals, Information technology, food security, natural gas, green hydrogen, green ammonia just to name few.

Egypt has shown interest in Indian defence as well as agricultural equipment. Egypt is interested to buy 20 Indian Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) besides other defence equipment. Both countries want to develop their own defence industrial base and they can work together on defence R&D and manufacturing.

India which is keen to enhance its defence export especially to African countries can increase it through Egypt. Several Indian defence manufacturing companies are working with Egyptian companies so that India can export defence items to Egypt.

In nutshell the current visit of Prime Minister Modi would strengthen ties with Egypt and India’s investment would increase in this important North African nation. Egypt being a moderate Muslim country may help India in countering false Pakistani propaganda of violation of human rights in Kashmir. India may also be able to counter increasing Chinese influence in African continent. India may help Egypt in getting the membership of BRICS and providing food security. It may be a win – win situation for both the countries.

(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at