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India's Modi on first visit to Egypt

By AFP - Jun 25,2023 - Last updated at Jun 25,2023

CAIRO — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi in Cairo on Sunday on a rare visit during which both sides pledged to deepen their strategic partnership.

They agreed to boost investment by India, the world's most populous nation, in Egypt, which has the Arab world's largest population, of 105 million, and which is now in the grips of an economic downturn.

Modi, in power since 2014, was on his first visit to the north African country and US ally following a four-day trip to the United States where he met President Joe Biden.

Modi and Sisi "signed a joint declaration to elevate relations to a strategic partnership", which they had first announced in January when Sisi visited New Delhi, a spokesman for the Egyptian leader said.

India and Egypt have pledged to boost bilateral trade by billions of dollars as India is also stepping up investment in Egypt, particularly in renewable energy.

Egypt has suffered a drawn-out economic crisis in which the currency has lost half its value in a year.

The government has in recent months moved to diversify foreign investors, which also include Gulf powers and China.

Sisi bestowed Cairo's highest honour, the Order of the Nile, on Modi and the two leaders affirmed their "mutual commitment" to strengthen relations.

This would include "increasing high-level visits", facilitating direct flights between the capitals, and "developing Indian investments in Egypt", according to the presidency in Cairo.

India is already Egypt's seventh-largest trading partner, according to data from Cairo's central bank, with trade reaching $7 billion last year.

The two leaders agreed in January to increase Indian investments in Egypt, which currently stand at over $3.15 billion, including through a potential "dedicated land area for Indian industries in the Suez Canal Economic Zone".

Those projects include a $12 billion green hydrogen plant to be built by Indian firm ACME.

In 2022, as Russia's Ukraine invasion drove up global grain prices, India banned wheat exports to protect its reserves and rein in inflation, but granted an exception to Egypt, the world's biggest wheat importer.

Modi invited Sisi to a G-20 summit India is hosting in September.

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