‘INDUS AND THE NILE’
‘Cradles’ in the past and ‘Crucibles’ in the present’
India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilizations, have enjoyed a history of close contact from ancient times. Even prior to the Common Era, Ashoka’s edicts refer to his relations with Egypt under Ptolemy II. In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi and Saad Zaghloul shared common goals on the independence of their countries, a relationship that was to blossom into an exceptionally close friendship between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru, leading to a Friendship Treaty between the two countries in 1955. The Non-Aligned Movement, led by Nehru and Nasser, was a natural concomitant of this relationship that has seen changes since the end of the cold war. There have been several high-level political visits between the two countries and relations have only grown stronger with time.
Egypt has traditionally been one of India's most important trading partners in the African continent. The India-Egypt Bilateral Trade Agreement has been in operation since March 1978 and is based on the Most Favoured Nation clause. Bilateral trade has grown significantly and consistently in the past five years despite the revolution. Nearly 50 Indian companies operate in Egypt with a combined investment of roughly US $ 2.5 billion with a significant Indian presence in almost every field. In the process, these companies provide direct and indirect employment to approximately 35,000 Egyptians. The top 5 Indian companies alone, mainly in the labour intensive textile industry, provide direct employment to more than 12,800 Egyptians. Technical cooperation and assistance has also been a major part of the bilateral relationship.
Cultural exchanges between the two countries have existed since time immemorial and with the setting up of the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) in Cairo in 1992 as part of the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP), the spirit of that cultural exchange has seen an institutional embodiment. The strong ties between India and Egypt are evident from the affection towards India amongst the Egyptians. Three streets in Cairo are named after Indian leaders namely (click on the names to see on Google map), Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Dr. Zakir Hussein. The Indian Community is about 3600 strong, concentrated in Cairo although a small number of families reside in Alexandria and Port Said. The Indian Community Association of Egypt (ICAE) coordinates activities of the Indian Diaspora. More than 115,000 Indian tourists visited Egypt in 2011.
Relations between the two countries go back thousands of years. The two countries have strong people-to-people relations that go beyond institutions and business goes on as usual with or even without government support and intervention. And now after the popular revolution we are hopeful of seeing a new phase in the bilateral relations with a new democratic Egypt.