News Egypt bats for Kashmir dialogue, wants deeper ties with India

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SOURCE: INDIA TODAY

Egypt respects India’s ability to be a regional and an international player and advocates dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad over the Kashmir imbroglio. In an exclusive interview with India Today Group Editorial Director (publishing) Raj Chengappa, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that India and Egypt have been advocates of a rule-based world order and must immunise themselves against any form of terrorism.

From 1955, when Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement, to 2018, ties between Cairo and New Delhi have come a long way. Egypt looks to cement its trade, political and economic ties with India further.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who is in India for the seventh session of the Egypt-India joint committee on bilateral relations, said that it is high time for full revival of this strategic relationship. How does Egypt view India’s role as an international player, especially in the Mideast and Africa? “India has demonstrated its ability and capability to be both a regional and an international player.

WAYS TO BOOST INDIA-EGYPT RELATIONS

India and Egypt have both been advocates of rule-based world order,” said Shoukry, who will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and deliver a message from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on ways to boost relations.

But what is the reason for the decline in bilateral trade from $4.77 billion to $3.23 billion despite Modi and Sisi enjoying a good relationship? According to Shukri, “one should not read much into it because the decline is of limited nature. There is a will on both sides to develop this relationship and India still constitutes a major trading partner of Egypt”.

When asked what could be the three areas Egypt would like to focus to boost bilateral trade, Shoukry said, “Textiles, energy and technology-there is a great potential for cooperation in these three areas. Egypt is developing as a hub for energy.”

‘EGYPT STRATEGICALLY PLACED TO HELP INDIA’

Besides, Egypt “looks forward to enhance the bilateral relationship and even a trilateral relationship with India involving countries in the Middle East and Africa,” Shoukry said adding “Egypt is strategically placed to help India in its desire to project itself further into Africa.”

India and Egypt had signed a two-years security agreement related to sharing information on terror and to combine forces against terrorism. What has been the progress? According to Shoukry, there has been increased coordination and exchange of information under the pact. “There is still more scope to improve our synergy against the threat of terrorism. We look to deepening that cooperation and information exchange.”

On Egypt’s stand on India’s concerns with cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Shoukry said, “We are addressing the issue on bilateral and multilateral fora to combat terrorist organisations that are primarily established in the Middle East and continue to threaten the international community. In our fight against terrorism, we must immunise ourselves against all forms of terrorism and illegal activities that target civilians.”

Considering Egypt’s close ties with Pakistan, what would be Shoukry’s advice to Islamabad regarding India’s concerns about cross-border terrorism. “We have tried to advocate a balanced relationship with all our international partners on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in their internal affairs. These are the guiding principles of Egypt’s foreign policy,” he said.

KASHMIR IMBROGLIO

On the Kashmir imbroglio, Shoukry said that dialogue, not military intervention, is the only way. “We support peaceful resolution of all conflicts through diplomatic means and dialogue and continue to advocate against any form of military intervention or conflict.” What does Egypt think about India’s current approach to the Kashmir problem? “There should be dialogue and negotiations taking into account of all people in the region,” he said.

What is Egypt’s stand on China’s continued blocking of India’s efforts at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to declare Jaish-e-Mohammed founder and Pathankot Air Force Station attack mastermind Masood Azhar a global terrorists? “The issue has to be addressed from a legal perspective from various organisations like the UNSC,” Shoukry said without getting drawn into the issue.

EGYPT AGAINST ALL FORMS OF TERROR

On Lashkar-e-Taiba co-founder and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s free rein in Pakistani, Shoukry said that “Egypt had come out in full force in condemnation of the attacks. Egypt is always against all forms of terror. We should exert all our efforts in bringing to justice all people implicated in terrorism.” But has Egypt taken up the issue of Saeed with Pakistan? “We addressed the issue from a complete perspective and we continue to deal with it on multilateral fora,” he said.

Shoukry avoided the question of Egypt’s support for India in its bid to be a permanent member of the UNSC. “Egypt will support the general consensus that develops around the negotiating process of the General Assembly regarding the new composition of the UNSC.”

Under Modi, there has been a resurgence in India-Israel relations. Is Egypt concerned as India and Israel move closer strategically? “No, we are hardly concerned. Further cooperation between the two countries and India’s ability to convince Israel of its ability to help in resolving the Mideast conflict will opens doors of economic and political cooperation between them. Even Egypt has an equally normal relationship with Israel. And we all look forward to the day when the conflict is resolved,” Shoukry said.

Shoukry also said that US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had impacted efforts of many countries in the region. “We hope to overcome this development and reopen negotiations to resolve the conflict,” he said.