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India did not host a foreign leader as chief guest during the Republic Day ceremonies in 2021 and 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. India has invited President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt to be the chief guest at the Republic Day ceremony in the national capital on January 26 next year.

New Delhi has extended the invitation to the 68-year-old military-leader-turned-politician as it is keen to add new momentum to the India-Egypt defence cooperation with joint war drills and a proposed export of 70 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), headquartered in Bengaluru, to the Arab Republic straddling north-east Africa and south-west Asia.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had visited Cairo last month and had a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. He had also called on Sisi and handed over to him “a personal message” from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A formal invitation from President Droupadi Murmu to her counterpart in Egypt has also been sent to Cairo, a source in New Delhi told DH.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too had visited Cairo on September 19 and 20. He had also called on the President of Egypt. He and his counterpart Gen Mohamed Zaki agreed to identify proposals for expanding cooperation between the defence industries of India and Egypt and exchanged views on regional security.

Singh and Zaki had signed an MoU to step up defence cooperation.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had sent three Su-30MKI aircrafts, two C-17 aircrafts and 57 personnel to take part in Tactical Leadership Programme at Egyptian Air Force Weapon School in Cairo West Airbase from June 24 to July 22 this year.

India did not host a foreign leader as chief guest during the Republic Day ceremonies in 2021 and 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If Sisi accepts the invitation, he is going to be the first leader from Cairo to be hosted by New Delhi as the chief guest at the Republic Day ceremony, although the bilateral relations between the two nations have a 75-year-long history. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Egypt’s second President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had founded the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, along with President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and President Sukarno of Indonesia.

India had in 1963 sent Group Captain Kapil Bhargava of the IAF to help Egypt to flight test the HA 300 fighter aircraft developed at ‘Factory 36’ in the southern suburb of Cairo. It had later gifted the Egyptian Air Force a modified HF-24 (Mk IBX) aircraft developed by the HAL and deputed a 30-member team at Helwan near Cairo for its maintenance. Egypt, however, had started relying more on the Soviet Union for military aircraft after suffering setbacks in the “Six-Day War” against Israel in 1967 and its collaboration with India for developing engines and fighter jets had not proceeded further.

New Delhi has of late moved to revive its cooperation with Cairo on military aircraft, with the HAL’s offer for 70 Tejas LCA for the Egyptian Air Force and setting up joint manufacturing facilities in Egypt. India also offered Egypt helicopters developed by the HAL.

Egypt has been one of India’s largest trading partners in Africa. India-Egypt bilateral trade touched a record high of US $7.26 billion in 2021-22. The investment from India in Egypt exceeds US $3.15 billion. Over 50 Indian companies are actively present in Egypt in a range of sectors, like manufacturing, chemicals, energy, infrastructure and retail.