Asia is present process a world-historical geopolitical transformation. The rise of the Indo-Pacific as a coherent geoeconomic and geopolitical system coincides with the rise of what this writer has beforehand termed the “Indo-Abrahamic,” an rising transregional order connecting India to West Asia and the japanese Mediterranean. Till now, the geographic vastness of Asia and the legacy of “divide-and-conquer” colonialism have stored the continent politically and economically fragmented. By reshaping their bilateral relations, Cairo and New Delhi can seize the strategic alternative to hyperlink the Indo-Abrahamic with the Indo-Pacific, thus realizing this envisioned West Asian system.
Leaders of the Non-Aligned Motion
Cairo and New Delhi share an intertwined historical past. British colonialists coveted Egypt not just for its riches but in addition because the gateway to India, the crown jewel of the British Empire. Britain’s sprawling colonial enterprise created a transcontinental geostrategic and geoeconomic system that related India to Egypt to Britain by way of the Suez Canal. Indians and Egyptians took up the combat in opposition to British colonialism virtually concurrently and the 2 nations gained their independence inside a decade of each other, in 1947 and 1956 respectively. Bilateral relations blossomed right into a quasi-strategic partnership underneath Egypt’s Pan-Arabist President Gamal Abdel Nasser and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The 2 charismatic leaders championed liberation actions worldwide. Alongside Yugoslavia’s President Josip Tito, Indonesia’s President Sukarno, and Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah, Nasser and Nehru based then led the Non-Aligned Motion (NAM), which claimed neutrality through the Chilly Battle and fostered Afro-Asian unity. Regardless of their professed neutrality, Cairo and New Delhi leaned in favor of the Soviet Union as a result of they considered Washington as an avatar of the West’s darkish historical past of colonialism.
Cairo and New Delhi past Islamabad
Within the Fifties, India’s particular relationship with Egypt fashioned a cornerstone of New Delhi’s overseas coverage within the Center East and Africa. Nehru and Nasser themselves bonded on the helm of the NAM. However the Indo-Egyptian partnership wasn’t all about political solidarity and decolonization. Nehru and Nasser hoped to help one another’s navy and industrial growth as a protection in opposition to coercion through the Chilly Battle.
Cairo has tried to foster relations with New Delhi and Islamabad with out having to prioritize one over the opposite. Relations with India are central to Cairo’s self-perception as each a frontrunner of the Arab world and one in all solely a handful of African nations highly effective and revered sufficient to symbolize the continent on the world stage. Equally, New Delhi has regarded to Cairo as a nation with deep-seated cultural roots and widespread political affect that might rehabilitate India’s fame broken within the Muslim world by the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. Egypt respects India’s standing as a regional and international energy in addition to Pakistan’s standing as the only real Muslim nuclear energy. Cairo helps talks between the 2 over the Kashmir battle. Cairo’s relations with Islamabad circumscribe, however don’t altogether sabotage, its ties with New Delhi.
The present state of affairs between Egypt and India
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India keep a pleasant, cooperative rapport and present a transparent urge for food for nearer ties. After President Sisi assumed energy in 2014, PM Modi visited Egypt in August 2015, they usually met one month afterward the sidelines of the U.N. Basic Meeting. Throughout the third India-Africa Discussion board Summit in New Delhi in October 2015, President Sisi met with PM Modi for the third time. In 2016, President Sisi traveled to India together with his prime cupboard members on a state go to in a extra organized effort to develop relations. Sisi’s and Modi’s private chemistry is prime to Egypt and India’s strategic ties. The rising power of the bilateral relationship was highlighted by Egypt’s cargo of 30 tons of medical provides and 300,000 doses of the antiviral drug remdesivir to India through the pandemic.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has solely exacerbated Egypt’s financial woes by reducing off wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. Inside this context, Cairo has regarded to India in its place provider. Due to the brutal heatwave at the moment impacting India’s grain manufacturing, New Delhi imposed an export ban on wheat in mid-Might. India did, nonetheless, exempt Egypt from the ban. This exemption speaks to the robust, resilient relationship between Egypt and India. The character of bilateral relations and Cairo’s choice to assist New Delhi through the pandemic paved the way in which for India to help Egypt in staving off its looming wheat shortages.
Cairo hopes for deeper and extra strategic relations with New Delhi and vice-versa, and there is numerous untapped potential. Cairo and New Delhi ought to try collectively to create a world system that preserves the cultural specificity of non-Western nations, incorporates international dysfunction, resists Western practices of coercion, and promotes fairness between East and West, North and South.
The 4 pillars of recent bilateral relations between Cairo and New Delhi
1. The rise of Egypt and India as civilization-states
As a response to the Western-dominated liberal worldwide order, its cultural rules, and interventionism, Egypt and India are constructing their very own civilization-states. As per Bruno Maçães’s definition, civilization-states, in distinction to nation-states, are “organized round tradition somewhat than politics.” The idea of the civilization-state is essential to understanding nations comparable to China on their very own phrases. This writer argued in a earlier essay that Egypt is growing its personal civilization-state after a long time of soul-searching over easy methods to outline itself. Cairo’s home and overseas coverage selections must be considered and understood by means of the lens of the civilization-state paradigm. Modi’s India is following the same trajectory by embracing a civilizational perspective of itself and the world, emphasizing the concept India isn’t just a nation, however somewhat a definite civilization. Cairo and New Delhi think about themselves heirs to their respective civilizations and thus really feel compelled to protect their very own religion, traditions, and heritage in opposition to the calls for of the dominant liberal world order. This angle informs each the home and overseas coverage of those two states, and their comparable self-conceptions can type the bedrock of stronger bilateral relations.
2. The Non-Alignment Motion in a multipolar world
The unipolar second has handed and the world is on the verge of turning into a multipolar system. A number of elements now hinder the prevention and administration of conflicts: Elevated geopolitical pressure between the U.S. and different main powers (e.g., China and Russia); the rise of civilization-states comparable to Turkey and India; the shift of financial energy to Asia; international demographic adjustments; the digital transformation; and international warming. World dysfunction is poised to turn out to be the brand new regular. Cairo and New Delhi share the idea that the liberal worldwide order is a thinly veiled automobile for Western political, financial, and cultural domination. Egypt and India do agree with the West on sure strategic pursuits, however disagree on many others. The struggle in Ukraine is a primary instance of this. Cairo and New Delhi worth their relations with Moscow and have refused to sentence the Russian invasion. The Ukraine struggle gained’t be the final difficulty the place Egypt and India pursue their very own pursuits in opposition to the needs of the West. The NAM requires retooling to take care of an emergent multipolar worldwide system characterised by simmering competitors among the many nice powers. Egypt and India ought to try to transform the NAM right into a coordination mechanism able to sending a transparent message to policymakers in Western capitals, Beijing, and Moscow that its 120 member-states wish to select their companions based mostly on their nationwide pursuits. In different phrases, they don’t wish to be coerced into choosing sides within the ideological battle pitting the West in opposition to Russia and China.
3. The Indo-Abrahamic framework
Coined in an essay by this writer, the idea of the Indo-Abrahamic refers back to the rising convergence of strategic pursuits between India, Israel, and the UAE — one that may finally result in the emergence of a brand new geostrategic coalition between them. “For a very long time, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have maintained transactional relations. Nevertheless, final 12 months’s normalization agreements between Israel and a number of other Arab states, together with the UAE, in addition to Turkey’s bid to reassert its place because the chief of a Muslim order and the UAE’s rising distance from Pakistan, have resulted within the formation of an unlikely and unprecedented ‘Indo-Abrahamic’ alliance.’ This rising multilateral alliance has the flexibility to reshape the area’s geopolitics and geoeconomics by filling the hole left by the US within the Center East.”
Right here I echo the Indian mental Raja Mohan’s argument that “situated on the cusp of the Mediterranean – Europe, Africa, and Asia, Egypt is the middle and coronary heart of the Higher Center East.” By advantage of its demographics, geography, civilization, and placement on the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and Asia, Cairo may give substantive depth to the rising Indo-Abrahamic bloc. In mild of the instability following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, a consensus fashioned in lots of regional and international capitals that Egypt had misplaced the luster that after allowed it to steer the Arab world, champion decolonization actions, and pioneer the NAM through the Chilly Battle. Being dismissed and downplayed as a regional participant gave Cairo a strategic window of alternative to redefine its pursuits and sphere of affect with out arousing an excessive amount of suspicion. By leveraging its geoeconomic and geopolitical benefits, Cairo is rising as an influence in a number of strategic theaters, together with Libya, the japanese Mediterranean, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Africa, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine. Engagement inside the Indo-Abrahamic framework would enable Cairo and New Delhi to determine a brand new safety structure for West Asia that addresses the area’s challenges in mild of the U.S.’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific.
4. Egypt as an anchor for India in Africa
As a rising nice energy, India has a strategic curiosity in increasing its attain to numerous areas across the globe — particularly to Africa, which boasts a quickly rising inhabitants and center class and performs a central function in international commodities markets. With such sights, Africa is rising as an enviornment of great-power competitors. Cairo performs a hybrid function in Africa. Egypt is positioning itself as a political, financial, and safety gateway to the remainder of the continent and is itself a rising strategic participant with a rising safety and intelligence footprint throughout Africa. Egypt has staked its geoeconomic technique on its engagement with the remainder of the continent. As an illustration, Cairo expanded its airline routes all through Africa, constructed medical and pharmaceutical facilities within the Nile Basin, and constructed a hydroelectric dam in Tanzania. On the strategic stage and to advance its place in its battle with Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Egypt has ramped up its diplomatic outreach and established itself as an influential participant within the Nile Basin and the Horn of Africa in addition to East and Central Africa. As I highlighted in a earlier publication for MEI, “Cairo succeeded in forging strategic alignment with Khartoum to exert diplomatic stress on Addis Ababa, forming webs of alliances with totally different regional powers throughout East and Central Africa and the Horn of Africa to venture energy and affect, and exerting geopolitical ahead stress on Ethiopia in parallel with the diplomatic monitor to resolve the Nile dispute.”
Their clear dynamism and shared pursuits in Africa, in addition to their frequent perspective on the worldwide order, create a gap for Cairo and New Delhi to redouble their efforts throughout Africa collectively. There are clear wants in Africa that Egypt and India may cooperate to fulfill in alliance with their African companions. The areas of potential cooperation run the gamut from pharma to infrastructure, training to well being providers, intelligence cooperation to navy workout routines.
From the shared battle for independence in opposition to the British Empire to founding and main the NAM on the peak of the Chilly Battle, Egypt and India have lengthy maintained shut ties. Nonetheless, bilateral relations between Cairo and New Delhi in current a long time stagnated resulting from: 1) Egypt’s pivot to the West following the U.S.-brokered peace settlement with Israel; 2) the top of the Chilly Battle; 3) Egypt’s balancing act between Pakistan and India; and 4) India’s deal with its speedy sphere of curiosity and affect. The present state of worldwide dysfunction and the rise of Indo-Abrahamic, nonetheless, create incentives for Cairo and New Delhi to work collectively extra intently. By advantage of their civilizational outlooks, demography, geography, and geopolitical aspirations, Egypt and India may develop a West Asian system that integrates the area. From coordinating on international and regional points to working collectively in different strategic theaters comparable to Africa and the Indian Ocean, Egypt-India bilateral relations maintain a lot untapped potential.
Mohammed Soliman is a Non-Resident Scholar with MEI’s Cyber and Egypt applications and a Senior Affiliate at McLarty Associates’ Center East and North Africa Follow. His work focuses on the intersection of expertise, geopolitics, and enterprise in MENA. The views expressed on this piece are his personal.
Photograph by MONEY SHARMA/AFP by way of Getty Photographs