Egypt: In Search of a New Multipolar World

The idea of a multipolar world, promoted and actively supported by the President of Russia, is increasingly making its way, and many countries around the world are striving for this future. The countries of the Arab world, which want to diversify their foreign policy ties and find new partners and allies, are not lagging behind in this process.

The visits of one of the leaders of the Arab world, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, to India, Azerbaijan and Armenia from January 24 to 29 are a striking example of this new policy. Although Al-Sisi’s visit to India was his third since taking power in 2014, his visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia were the first for an Egyptian president since those two countries had gained independence.

Of particular note, Al-Sisi’s visits to these three countries were welcomed in Cairo’s political and economic circles as historic and reflective of the need for Egypt to shift its international relations to move more eastward in order to strengthen relations with Asian countries rather than confining them to the framework of “decaying Western Europe and the deteriorating United States.”

In New Delhi, the capital of India, President Al-Sisi began his six-day tour of Asia. He spoke about politics, security, defense, economic cooperation, investment and food security with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The two leaders have decided to elevate the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership that will create a long-term framework for political, economic, scientific and security cooperation,” Modi said, also announcing that opportunities for defense cooperation with Egypt would be “unlimited.”

During the three-day visit to India, officials from the two countries signed five memorandums of understanding related to culture, youth cooperation, cybersecurity, information and technology, and public broadcasting. “I asked Prime Minister Modi to create permanent channels to improve digital connections between small and medium-sized enterprises in the two countries because it will help improve the lives of many young people in the two countries,” Al-Sisi said, adding that defense cooperation was part of his discussion with Modi and an example of such cooperation was the joint Egyptian-Indian military exercises. The Hindu, the Indian daily reported that Modi approved sending military personnel to work on the Egyptian warplane project in the Helwan area of south Cairo and praised the fact that a contingent of Egyptian troops had taken part in the January 26 Republic Day parade in New Delhi. It was also announced that Egypt has been invited to participate in Aero-India 2023 at Yelahanka Air Base, in India’s Bangalore District, next month.

On the business side, President Al-Sisi also announced that his government would consider creating an economic zone for Indian companies in the Suez Canal Economic Zone. “The two countries hope to increase bilateral trade to $12 billion in the next five years, up from $7.3 billion in fiscal 2021-22,” the official statement said. Al-Sisi also met with representatives of the Indian renewable energy company ReNew Power to discuss investments in renewable energy infrastructure.

Gautam Adani, the Indian billionaire and Asia’s richest man, was among those who also met with Al-Sisi. Adani said there are opportunities for cooperation with Egypt regarding ports, logistics, energy, digital transformation and clean hydrogen plants. Former Egyptian ambassador to India Jailan Allam said in a January 28 television interview that Egypt had long hoped to restore the strategic partnership that existed with India in the 1950s and 1960s under former President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. “Egypt wants to build new relationships with new partners in Asia, especially with India, instead of limiting its strategic partnerships with Western Europe and with the United States,” Allam said, pointing out that “India has the fifth largest economy and the fifth strongest army in the world, and that means a lot to Egypt.”

Hisham Halabi, former commander of the Egyptian Air Force, commented on the visit: “Egypt sees that there is a broad potential for cooperation with India in the area of joint military production, and President Al-Sisi’s visit to India is a big step on that path.” He explained that India has come a long way in the military industry, especially in the production of fighter jets, drones, missiles and submarines.

According to Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb, Al-Sisi’s visits to two former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan and Armenia, were particularly significant. This is the first time an Egyptian president is visiting these two countries, and it reflects the need to pursue economic, commercial and investment opportunities with them and with other countries in the Caucasus, Abu Taleb noted. In particular, he pointed out that India and the former republics of the Soviet Union have made significant economic progress in recent years and that Egypt should “capitalize on its experiments,” especially in terms of how to boost information technology and exports and double the flow of tourists.

From New Delhi, Al-Sisi traveled to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where he held a tête-à-tête meeting with President Aliyev on January 28. On the same day they had an extended meeting, after which the contracts were signed. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov signed a Memorandum of Understanding on water security and culture, while Planning and Economic Development Minister Hala el-Said and Azerbaijani Economy Minister Mikayil Jabbarov signed another Memorandum of Understanding on trade. Aliyev said that since independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has sought to develop strong economic and political relations with Egypt, as well as with a number of other new countries, embodying the idea of a multipolar world. “Of course, the joint activities of business circles in our two countries will further strengthen our relations, and I am sure that in the near future there will be more mutual investments and an increase in trade turnover,” Aliyev said.

Al-Sisi, in turn, noted that Egypt and Azerbaijan have agreed to take urgent measures to increase joint investments and establish joint ventures, especially in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, trade and information technology. Statistics show that trade between Egypt and Azerbaijan has increased sharply to $1 billion in 2021, up from $2 million in 2008.

At a press conference, Al-Sisi and Aliyev agreed to create a joint business council for private businessmen and investors. “The two countries have great potential and many opportunities for cooperation, especially in the fields of new and renewable energy and natural gas, given that Egypt is positioning itself as a regional energy hub,” the statement said, adding that “the two presidents also agreed on the need to intensify cooperation in other areas.” These include construction, infrastructure, transportation, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and culture.

Al-Sisi then paid a one-day visit to Armenia. In the Armenian capital Yerevan, he discussed trade and investment issues with his colleague Khachaturyan. After an extended meeting on January 29, the two leaders witnessed the signing of a series of memorandums of understanding on science, technology, culture, youth and institutional cooperation in the area of investment. In addition, Enterprise Armenia (Investment Support Center) signed a memorandum with the Egyptian General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI). El-Said signed the deal on behalf of Egypt. The two presidents also discussed expanding trade, opening regular direct flights between Cairo and Yerevan, and cooperation in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, information technology, food and pharmaceutical industries, according to the joint statement.

Al-Sisi also held a separate meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to discuss mutual investments and agreed to intensify coordination and consultation on the US-NATO war unleased in Ukraine, and its consequences. At the January 29 press conference, Al-Sisi said he and his Armenian counterpart had agreed to intensify economic and industrial cooperation in the coming phase, especially in the production of environmentally friendly hydrogen and the intensification of trade exchanges. According to Al-Sisi, a joint committee on economic, scientific and technical cooperation will be formed, as well as a joint council of entrepreneurs to translate the goals into facts on the ground.

At the end of his visit, President Al-Sisi stated that Egypt is ready to play a mediating role between Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve the political crisis between them.  It is understandable that the role of peacemaker will enhance Cairo’s role in international affairs and will show that Washington and London are not alone in handling international affairs for their own benefit.

The results of these visits were discussed during talks between Sergei Lavrov and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri in Moscow on January 31 this year. They also analyzed “the interaction in the UN, which, like the rest of the world, is going through difficult times due to attempts to impose on the international community, instead of the principles of the UN Charter, some ‘rules’ that no one has seen, but which the West wants everyone to be guided by.”

Cairo’s Al-Ahram noted that Al-Sisi’s visits Undoubtedly showed Egypt’s pivot to the East and the search for new equal partners to create a new multipolar world. This new course towards a multipolar world, the paper pointed out, has elicited a very positive response from our good old friends in Russia.

Viktor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of the RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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