Egypt and India have decided to set up a system for strategic dialogue on the foreign ministers level, as a step towards reactivating systematic political dialogue on joint, regional, and global issues, India’s ambassador to Cairo, Mr A. Gopinathan, said during a recent press conference at the embassy premises. The two countries also agreed to begin immediate talks about relevant security policies in both countries.
The press conference came in the wake of President Mubarak’s visit to India, during which he received the Jawaherlal Nehru Award for International Understanding that he had been granted back in 1995.
Hand in hand
Five other agreements were also signed between Egypt and India. One concerned the handing over of criminals, and another involved the exemption of Egyptian and Indian holders of diplomatic, official, or VIP passports from entry visas to Egypt and India. Memoranda of understanding were signed for cooperation in health and medicine, in the exploration and utilisation of outer space for peaceful purposes, and in the commercial and technical spheres.
The two countries signed four cooperation agreements relating to information technology.
Mr Gopinathan said the presidential talks tackled the international financial crisis and the rise in food and energy prices. The issue of global terrorism naturally warranted special attention, and the two countries agreed to coordinate their stances in international conventions regarding all these issues.
The rising piracy incidents off the Somali coast near the Gulf of Aden, a source of particular concern to Egypt since it is poised to threaten navigation in the Suez Canal, was also discussed by both presidents. Egypt reviewed the efforts of Red Sea countries in fighting piracy, while India spoke of the measures it had already taken in that respect. The Indians stressed, however, that India cannot tackle the piracy off Somalia all on its own.
Buoyed by plans of Indian firms including Reliance Industries and Tata Chemicals to invest in Egypt, an industrial zone meant exclusively for Indian companies is under study. Reliance Industries has plans for a plastic manufacturing unit, while Tata is working on a fertiliser plan with an investment of $1.2 billion. The Aditya Birla group, ONGC Videsh, Gujarat State Petroleum and GAIL have established their presence in Egypt which, a spokesman for the Indian trade ministry said, stands as a hub in the Middle East and the Arab world. Indian investment in Egypt stands at $800 million, and is expected to reach some two billion dollars in the next two years, while bilateral trade in the last four years has tripled in value.