Increasing bilateral investments, a greater role for India in regional security and stability and fighting terrorism are among the key issues that are likely to come up for discussion during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Egypt early next week.
“The visit of the Indian external affairs minister next week is a continuation of the historic relations between India and Egypt,” Egypt’s Ambassador to India, Hatem Tageldin, told IANS in an intervieew.
“The Arab region and India are among the biggest trade partners and trade between the two sides is worth around $180 billion,” he said.
The ambassador said that Egypt is working on a number of mega projects from which Indian investors can benefit. “The New Suez Canal that was inaugurated on August 6 is one of them. We are planning to set up a special economic zone of around 500 sq km,” he said.
He said there are already over 50 Indian investors in Egypt and there was around $3 billion of private Indian investment in the north African country.
“Indian companies in the pharmaceutical, IT, infrastructure, energy and auto component sectors are exploring the Egyptian market with the intention of either exporting from India or producing in Egypt,” the ambassador said, citing Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra and the Tata group examples.
Egypt is the hub of entry to as many as 26 African countries and with the signing of a number of pacts between these countries, Indian companies can move product within the region without paying any customs duties.
As for Egyptian investment in India, he said: “I have already visited Bangalore to lay the foundation stone of a new Egyptian factory. There is a second (Egyptian) factory already functioning in Noida and the negotiation process is on for a third factory.”
He also stressed on the issues of regional security and the fight against terrorism that will figure during Sushma Swaraj’s visit on August 24-25.
“The two sides will also discuss regional issues and the situations in countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen,” Tageldin said.
“The Indian external affairs minister will also meet the secretary general of the Arab League apart from holding bilateral discussions with our minister for foreign affairs.”
According to the diplomat, Egypt believed in India’s role in the Israel-Palestine peace process. “We trust India to continue its historic support to the Palestine issue,” he said.
Cairo is also looking forward to attracting more Indian tourists to Egypt. “Last year,we had 10 million tourists. The number of Indian tourists was 61,000. I think that is a very humble number,” Tageldin said.
“We process Indian tourists’ visas in a maximum of three days. Also Indian tourists going in groups can get visa on arrival facility by requesting Egyptian tour operators.
Tageldin said Egypt Air, which currently flies to Mumbai, is exploring the possibility of introducing a direct flight to New Delhi too.
According to the ambassador, Sushma Swaraj’s visit is a reflection of the new Indian government’s thrust on looking west – Gulf and the Arab world – after having focussed on the Look East policy in the first year.