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Egyptian President invited as chief guest for Republic Day 2023

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is invited as chief guest for Republic Day 2023 signifying India’s focus on the Islamic world

India has invited Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the chief guest for Republic Day in 2023, signifying India’s continuing emphasis on the Islamic world as it readies for 2023 as a year of high-profile diplomatic engagements due to trade and defense cooperations.

The formal invitation was made when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Sisi in Cairo on October 16 during an official visit to Egypt, the people said. Egypt is among the nine guest countries invited to the G20 Summit under India’s presidency in 2023.

An invitation as chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 is a sign of great privilege reserved for the country’s close allies and partners. While 2021 and 2022 Republic celebrations were ruptured due to COVID-19, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was the last chief guest to participate in the 2020 celebrations.

Following his meeting with Sisi last month, Jaishankar said in a tweet that he had conveyed the “warm greetings of PM @narendramodi and handed over a personal message”. Both countries are yet to make a formal announcement about the matter.

The 68-year-old general-turned-politician is set to be the first Egyptian leader to be hosted by India for the Republic Day celebrations though the two countries have enjoyed close relations in past decades, especially as founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.

Defense and security cooperation has emerged as a key pillar of India-Egypt relations in the past few years and defense minister Rajnath Singh too met Sisi when he visited Cairo during September 19-20.

Singh and his Egyptian counterpart General Mohamed Zaki signed a memorandum of understanding on enhancing defence cooperation across all sectors, and agreed to identify proposals for expanding cooperation between the defence industries of India and Egypt. The two sides also agreed to enhance joint exercises and exchanges of military personnel for training, especially in counter-insurgency.

Sources say that Egypt is reportedly eyeing India’s home-grown light combat aircraft Tejas for a plan to get some 70 jet fighters. Egyptian Air Force chief Mahmoud Foaad Abd El-Gawad visited India in July with the aim to look out for defense equipment. This was followed by the first air force exercise between the two countries in October 2021.

For India, Egypt also occupies a strategic position as a link between Africa and West Asia, which New Delhi describes as part of its extended neighbourhood. Egypt has traditionally been one of India’s most important trading partners in Africa, and India was Egypt’s eighth-largest trading partner in 2020-21.

Bilateral trade peaked at $5.45 billion in 2012-13 before declining to $3.23 billion in 2016-17 due to the general economic slowdown and decline in oil prices. Trade saw favorable growth again from 2017-18 to reach $4.15 billion during 2020-21.

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