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India, Egypt and Geopolitics of West Asia 
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Arunansh B. Goswami | Date:08 Apr , 2024 0 Comments
Arunansh B. Goswami
is an advocate, historian and Author who also Heads Scindia Research Centre, Scindia Palace Gwalior.

Depiction of three Presidents of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat and Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in Egypt. Photo Credits: Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami.

Recently author of this article was on a tour of a country in North Africa with several millennia old civilisation, namely Egypt. It’s land frontiers border Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and Israel to the northeast (all it’s neighbours are going through internal or external conflicts), and also borders the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It has the profoundly important Suez Canal that separates the African continent from Asia. 

This canal is the only place that directly connects the waters of Europe with the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the countries of the Asia-Pacific, nationalisation of this canal by Gamal Abdel Nasser (One of the founding fathers of Non Alignment Movement along with Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru) led to the Suez Crisis in 1956, (India supported Egypt during this crisis) he emerged as a victor and a hero for the cause of Arab and Egyptian nationalism after this conflict. 

Travelling through the Nubian desert. Photo Credits. Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami.

From South to the North 

During his travels in the almost entire South-North stretch of the country from Abu Simbel near the Sudan border to Alexandria on the coast of Mediterranean Sea, author interacted with people from different occupations and ethnicities (Upper Egypt was historically part of Nubia with close connections with Sudan and ethnically different from the people of Lower Egypt who have had close connections with the Arabs of Middle East) to learn about what they think about current Egyptian leadership, India and politics of West Asia. 

Author of this article in the Old Catarat Hotel. Image Credits: Mr. D. B. Goswami.

Author even visited as a guest to the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, where U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his staff stayed while negotiating the end of the brief Yom Kippur War. On the way from the Cairo International Airport to the city visitors to Egypt can see several posters of President Sisi, who has protected Egypt from forces of religious radicalism (Like Muslim Brotherhood) and was Chief Guest for the 2023 Republic Day parade of India. In this article author will focus on India-Egypt partnership in West Asia and beyond. 

Modi’s Visit In 2023 

Indian Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi visited Egypt for the first time since 1997, and Government of Egypt bestowed the highest honor of the land the “Order of the Nile” on him even though under his leadership India’s diplomatic relations with Israel have improved against whom Egypt fought during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and lost. But readers should know that even during the Modi era India has continued to support the “Two-State solution” to Israeli Palestinian conflict. 

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-sisi conferred Prime Minister Modi with the highest state honour of Egypt, the ‘Order of Nile.’ Photo Credits: Prime Minister’s Office India.

During his visit to Egypt Modi and Sisi signed a pact that had elevated the bilateral relationship to a “strategic partnership,” which India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra described as “the most important and the landmark development in the history of our relationship.” In January of last year, for the first time, the Special Forces of the Indian and Egyptian armies participated in joint exercises, it is interesting that IAF pilots trained Egyptian pilots from 1960s until 1984 and now as per an article by Rahul Singh for Hindustan Times “India is in talks with Egypt for the possible sale of the indigenously-built Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) to their air forces.”


India and Egypt have profound convergence of national interests including common threats from rising Neo-Ottomanism in Türkiye, even though India has deepened it’s relations with Israel it is well aware of the sentiments of the Arab world regarding Israel-Palestine conflict. India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ruchira Kamboj has said “Only a Two-State solution, achieved through direct and meaningful negotiations between both sides on final status issues, will deliver an enduring peace. India is committed to support a Two-State solution where the Palestinian people are able to live freely in an independent country within secure borders, with due regard to the security needs of Israel.” 

Al-Hakim Mosque, visited by P.M. Modi during his Egypt tour in 2023. Photo Credits: Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami.

Historical Connections 

During his visit to Egypt P.M. Modi visited the Al-Hakim mosque named after Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (985–1021 AD), the sixth Fatimid caliph. This mosque was restored with the help of the Dawoodi Bohra community that has been politically very close to Shri. Modi since the days when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. Mr. Modi even visited the Heliopolis War Cemetery, and the Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial this commemorates nearly 4,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting in Egypt and Palestine in the First World War. Kind of following the footsteps of the Honourable Prime Minister, author visited both the aforementioned places. 

Author of this article at the Heliopolis (Tewfik) Memorial. Image Credits; Mr. D. B. Goswami.

Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial 

While researching for the Scindia family of Gwalior author found that, 4th Gwalior Infantry Battalion played an important role during the First World War in Egypt. As per Gwalior Today book edited by Michael H. Brown and published by the Publicity Department of the Government of Gwalior, Bombay The Times of India Press 1940, the 4th Gwalior Infantry Battalion, under the command of Lt.-Col. Girdhari Singh, left Gwalior in October 1914 to join the 32nd (Imperial Service) Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General H. D. Watson at Deolali, they did service in Egypt to protect Suez Canal from Ottoman Turks. Author went to Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial to pay his respects to Indian soldiers and other Indian military men whose memory has been commemorated by this memorial. 

Interactions with Locals 

As mentioned before author interacted with several local Egyptians to understand their views on world politics, in Cairo a young engineer told the author that “Sisi is a dictator he made Egypt poor” a taxi driver in Luxor told the author the same, he said “Hosni Mubarak was good, under Sisi our currency became weaker” a tour guide in Cairo told the author “People voted for Sisi they like him, during Nasser’s rule we were the most powerful country in the Middle East, Erdogan is an enemy of the Egyptians and Turks ruled us and took several good Egyptian scholars to Constantinople with them,” and a Christian in Alexandria told the author “Turks did genocide of the Arabs in Egypt.” Sisi is no doubt very popular in Egypt, but it appears his opponents are using economic arguments to reduce his public support. What will happen in Egyptian politics in coming years only God knows, but this is quite evident that Sisi’s leadership is in India’s national interest. 


India and Egypt are two civilisational states that have important geopolitical status in Asia and Africa respectively. India has over the years during the Modi era developed strong partnerships with Arab states in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and has built on the strong relations India had with Egypt since the day of Nasser and Nehru. India is emerging as a strong defence equipment’s manufacturer, strong relations with countries like Egypt and Armenia will be advantageous to the growth of this capacity of our nation. Let’s hope under the leadership of Modi and Sisi, Egypt and India strengthen our “strategic partnership” even more.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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