Expert Speak India with Africa
Published on Dec 04, 2022 Updated 26 Days ago
Present-day geopolitics has provided a unique opportunity for both India and Egypt to bolster their relations
Reviving the Cairo-Delhi Axis India has invited Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to attend the Republic Day celebrations as the two nations' diplomatic, economic, and military ties grow. The Heads of State Summit in Delhi will be a unique opportunity to revive the Cairo-Delhi axis and coordinate on issues beyond the traditional bilateral relationship, which include: the consolidation of West Asia (via I2U2 or new mechanisms) and the formation of a third pole in international politics.

The Indo-Abrahamic Alliance in full motion

The Sisi-Modi Summit comes at an unprecedented moment in the history of the Middle East, where the region is converging with South Asia and cohering together to form a West Asian system. The main driver of integration is the convergence of interest between Israel, India, and Sunni Arab states, which paved the way for the rise of the Indo-Abrahamic Alliance. The Indo-Abrahamic Alliance manifested itself in the I2U2, where India, Israel, the United States (US), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) built a quadrilateral framework to address issues that, on the surface, are more focused on economics but have an underlined security element. The I2U2 endorsed the Abraham Accords and the Negev Forum, and it was reported that Israel and India would be supplying the UAE with Barak 8, a co-produced air defense system, to defend the Emirates from Iranian cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones.

Egypt’s centrality to the Indo-Abrahamic construct

On the western shores of the Red Sea, Egypt’s Suez Canal solidified its role as a geopolitical and economic cohering point between the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indo-Pacific. Unlike its traditional history of strategic conservatism, Cairo has cautiously embraced the new strategic environment in West Asia, from supporting the Abraham Accords to becoming a member of the Negev Forum and including Israel in the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas Forum, to working with Israel beyond their traditional bilateral relationship. Egypt’s new strategic calculus comes at a moment when Cairo is looking at ways to “burnish its regional credentials: even as Saudi Arabia and the UAE gain more visibility in the region and have more financial liberty, Egypt has a distinct advantage—its dual identity as an Afro-Arab nation, with its regional stance in both Africa and the Middle East.”

Egypt’s four-theatre advantage makes reviving the bilateral relationship a priority for Delhi as India attracts more partners and allies to pave the way to form a “third pole” in international politics.

The Egypt-India opportunity

As India builds its strategic partnerships with Israel and the UAE bilaterally or through minilateral formats such as the I2U2 and the France-UAE-India trilateral format, and its bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt emerges as India’s fourth main pillar in West Asia and Africa. Egypt is an active player in four strategic theatres: The Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, Africa, and West Asia, making Cairo a valuable partner for Delhi. Egypt is emerging as a Mediterranean power because of its centrality in gas geopolitics, and the Suez Canal guarantees Cairo’s status as a Red Sea power. In the Mediterranean space, Cairo could partner with Delhi and Paris in “addressing transnational challenges affecting the transoceanic space from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indo-Pacific.” In Africa, Egypt has a hybrid identity as a rising power with its own aspirations in Africa on the military and economic fronts as well as its position as a gateway to Africa. Egypt’s four-theatre advantage makes reviving the bilateral relationship a priority for Delhi as India attracts more partners and allies to pave the way to form a “third pole” in international politics.

The third pole in global politics

India is clear-headed about forming a third pole on the global stage instead of being asked again to choose sides in this era of great power competition, which accelerated following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rising tensions over Taiwan. This India-driven pole could be a coalition of regional and middle powers that want to pursue their national interests in this era of great power competition and economic uncertainty. This global environment is not new for Delhi and Cairo. In the 1950s and 1960s, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser led the Non-Alignment Movement during the Cold War, alongside Yugoslavia’s President Josip Tito. Today, Cairo and Delhi are facing a similar Cold War environment, where Washington and Brussels, on the one hand, and Beijing and Moscow, on the other, are locked in a great power rivalry that has become their default lens for their bilateral relations with the rest of the world. Their cooperation during the Cold War is foundational to their efforts to strengthen this emerging third pole in this new Cold War.

This India-driven pole could be a coalition of regional and middle powers that want to pursue their national interests in this era of great power competition and economic uncertainty.

The Republic Day

Since PM Modi took office in 2014, India has invited the leaders of the US(Barack Obama in 2015), France (François Hollande in 2016), the UAE (Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2017), all of the ASEAN leaders (in 2018), South Africa (Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019), and Brazil (Jair Bolsonaro in 2020) to Republic Day celebrations. The political and diplomatic significance of Republic Day makes the invitation to President Sisi an opportunity for the two nations to usher in a new era of bilateral relations. Cairo and Delhi should build on the recent high-level visits by two Indian ministers to Cairo. In September, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh visited Egypt to discuss military and security ties. Singh’s visit to Cairo was followed by Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s first-ever visit to Egypt, where he discussed bilateral relationships, trade, climate change, and other issues of interest. During President Sisi's visit to Delhi, Egypt and India should finalise the proposed sale of India’s 70 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft to Cairo, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) setting up production and manufacturing facilities in Egypt. Secondly, the two leaders should establish a yearly 3+3 format that includes the chief intelligence officers, ministers of defense, and ministers of foreign affairs that coordinates the two nations’ positions on issues ning maritime security, energy security, food security, security architecture in West Asia, and the War in Ukraine. Thirdly, Egypt and India should explore the possibility of a France-Egypt-India trilateral format as “an innovative coalition bringing together France, Egypt, and India would be an imaginative way of addressing transnational challenges affecting the transoceanic space from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indo-Pacific.” The proposed France-Egypt-India trilateral format can “grow into a format capable of engaging on a more global level by coordinating with other issue-based transregional groups, such as Israel-India-United Arab Emirates-United States and the Quad.”
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Contributor

Mohammed Soliman

Mohammed Soliman

Mohammed Soliman is the director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

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