In a sign of thaw in ties, India and Egypt agreed to intensify their defence relationship which had remained in a limbo while Cairo moved away from New Delhi after a period of intense cooperation on the international stage in the 1950s.

“We also agreed to enhance our defence exchanges and cooperation,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a summit meeting with the democratically elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.

7 agreements signed

The two sides also signed seven agreements but most of them are intended to be the building blocks for a robust relationship in future. As Dr. Singh noted: “The agreements that we have signed today are a clear manifestation of our desire to impart a new dynamism to our relationship.”

Arriving in India from Pakistan, with which Egypt had close ties — a factor that contributed to the lack in warmth in ties with India — Mr. Morsy indicated in an exclusive interview to The Hindu that he viewed India on another footing. A week before the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China South Africa) summit in Durban, the Egyptian President signalled Cairo’s interest in joining this grouping.

Apart from retaining its close ties with Pakistan, Mr. Morsy also made it clear that Egypt would also lean on China for assistance especially in the area of heavy manufacturing while ties with India would be explored in the area of small and medium enterprises as well as the defence sector. “Opening of avenues does not mean we close them with others,” he said.

As Dr. Singh and Mr. Morsy read out statements to the media and did not take any questions, it was not known whether the Egyptian President had discussed with the Indian leadership subjects he had mentioned in the interview to The Hindu. Besides expressing a desire for an expanded BRICS with Egypt as a partner, Mr. Morsy supported a stronger role for the Non Aligned Movement (India and Egypt were among the major pillars during its hey days) and favoured a multi-polar world.

The Prime Minister in his statement said the two sides were looking at tie ups in non-strategic areas such as socio-economic development programmes, skill development, higher education, agriculture and health care.

One concrete area where cooperation is poised to take off is in the satellite segment. Officials from both sides have been trying to nudge ahead a tie-up in space after then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Dr. Singh had identified it as an area for special focus.

The seven agreements signed include a MoU on cyber security, setting up a IT centre in Egypt’s Al Azhar University, cooperation in the field of intellectual property rights and prevention of illicit traffic of antiquities. Pacts were also signed in areas relating to I.T. where both sides intend accelerating cooperation.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the “courage and sacrifices of the people of Egypt in ushering in a new era of democracy” and appreciated Mr. Morsi for “ably” leading his country in building strong institutions and frameworks for democracy, social justice and inclusive economic development. “I am convinced that Egypt's successful transition would be an important model for the region and the world,” he said.

Mr. Morsy responded by calling Dr. Singh a “noble brother” and said his visit showed that Egypt was keen to cooperate with India.

They also discussed regional and international issues including Gulf, West Asia and the North African region. These are areas where Egypt has considerable weft and India’s position on issues is listened with respect.

“I conveyed our steadfast support to the Palestinian cause and expressed our deep appreciation for the role played by Egypt in trying to forge unity between the Palestinian groups and work towards a peaceful resolution of this long standing issue…We agreed on the urgent need for a peaceful resolution of all issues [especially Syria] through dialogue,” said Dr. Singh.