India's attempt to relay the foundations of its ties with Egypt has received an enthusiastic response, with the leadership of that country airing its ambition of establishing a soaring relationship with a strong strategic content.
At a press conference on Sunday, visiting External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna, disclosed that during his meeting with Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the latter was emphatic that India-Egypt relations should recover some of the lost flavour of the heady Nasser-Nehru era, in tune with the demands of modern times.
But Mr. Krishna's visit – the first high-level exchange after the exit of the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak – was hardly an exercise in nostalgia. On the contrary, looking towards the future, both sides, steering clear of sticky ideological issues, gave a technocratic slant to the relationship during its rebuilding stage.
Mr. Krishna said the two countries had identified Information Technology as a thrust area for joint forays. In the coming days and weeks, officials working through diplomatic channels, will come out with details and a road map for concretising cooperation. Both countries signed documents on Sunday to work together in agriculture, culture and environmental protection.
On the political track, India has decided to fully engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as a dominant force after the country's recent parliamentary elections. In his last meeting of the day, Mr. Krishna met Mohammed Morsy, chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), electoral face of the Brotherhood.
Leading figures of the Brotherhood told officials of Mr. Krishna's delegation that they would want to impart “greater balance” in choosing their friends and allies, and not have a foreign policy that had the relationship with the U.S. as its anchor.
Apart from India, Egypt would be keen to build a strong relationship with China as well as with its African neighbours. Egypt's relationship with the Gulf countries would remain strong especially because of the presence of nearly 2.5 million Egyptian workers there.
But that would not veto a constructive, if not conscious engagement, with Iran.
According to an Egyptian diplomat, the bureaucracy has continued to function despite a year of political turmoil caused by the anti-Mubarak uprising. But India might have to await a change of personnel, as officials from the Mubarak era fade out and the bureaucracy acquires a new complexion, reflective of the recent political changes, before interaction can commence in full swing.
During his call on Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal El Ganzoury, the latter called for expansion of trade with India, which stood at a modest $3 billion. Mr. Krishna invited Kamel Amr, his Egyptian counterpart, to India to keep up the tempo of the relationship, which might acquire greater momentum after Egypt concludes its presidential elections in May.