Before leaving for China via Vietnam on Friday evening, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held crucial talks with visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

President al-Sisi, who arrived in New Delhi for a three-day visit at the invitation of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, discussed various important bilateral, regional and global issues with the Indian premier. They also signalled a major shift in bilateral ties by signing a pact to promote sea commerce. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement that Modi and al-Sisi decided to bolster maritime trade ties, apart from strengthening bilateral defence and anti-terror co-operation. India and Egypt joined hands to combat terror, as both the countries were facing the threat of extremism and radicalism.

In the presence of the two leaders, senior Indian and Egyptian officials signed a pact that would facilitate maritime commerce and transit of naval vessels. After attending the signing ceremony, the Indian PM said that New Delhi and Cairo agreed to prepare a roadmap in order to intensify bilateral trade and investment. “President and I are of one view that growing radicalisation, increasing violence and spread of terror pose a real threat not just to our two countries, but also to nations and communities across regions. In this context, we agreed to further our defence and security engagement which would aim at expanding defence trade, training and capacity building,” stressed Modi.

Meanwhile, the visiting president urged India to invest in different sectors, like petro-chemicals, energy and agriculture, and take part in the ‘Suez Canal Economic Zone’ project. He invited Indian business leaders to invest more in his country and become a development partner of Egypt. President al-Sisi said that it would not be possible for Egypt to make economic progress without India’s co-operation.

The timing of President al-Sisi’s India visit is important as it took place ahead of the G-20 Summit in China. India has always considered Egypt as a “friendly” nation that can help the former to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean Region. The Modi administration is well aware of the fact that Egypt’s geographical location will help India maintain close ties with various African countries. Egypt is a strategically located country that is a crucial link between northeast Africa and West Asia. By using the Suez Canal, India can also boost its trade ties with African countries and it will ultimately help the South Asian nation ensure a steady economic growth.

In the Indian capital, the Egyptian president also held separate meetings with President Mukherjee, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and other top officials and business leaders on Saturday.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog – Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]