By Manish Chand
In the first high-profile visit from India to post-revolution Egypt, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is expected to travel to Cairo early next month to scale up economic ties and to forge equations with the new leadership in North Africa's most influential country.
While the agenda for the talks is being firmed up, Krishna is expected to go to Egypt on a three-day visit beginning March 3, a senior official told IANS.
Krishna will hold wide-ranging talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr with the focus on expanding bilateral trade and investment and building a rapport with the transitional military-dominated Egyptian government and key stakeholders in the evolving power structure in the country.
Discussions on global issues apart, the focus of Krishna's visit will be on scaling up economic and political ties with Egypt in the midst of dramatic changes in that country following the overthrow of Mubarak, Egypt's president for three decades, under the pressure of an uprising led by tech-savvy SMS-wielding youths.
The post-revolution Egypt is keen to build stronger relations with Egypt's then foreign minister Nabil Al-Araby visiting India in May, barely months after the Tahrir Square uprising.
India and Egypt were among the co-founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and have enjoyed robust relations regardless of who has been in power in Cairo and New Delhi.
Bilateral trade is currently estimated to be $3.2 billion. Egypt's Ambassador to India Khaled el Bakly is confident that there is a huge potential to at least double this figure in the next few years.
"Egypt is keen to see Indian companies working in its infrastructure sector," the envoy told IANS. He singled out agriculture and agro-processing and oil and gas as promising areas for intensifying bilateral cooperation.
Indian investments in Egypt are estimated to be around $2 billion in areas such as IT, petroleum, oil and gas. Top Indian companies like Essar, Reliance and the Tata group are planning huge investments in Egypt, a country better known outside for pyramids, pharaohs, and the Nile river cruise.
With an overwhelming 65 percent of its 85 million population being below 25, the envoy sees a major acceleration on people-to-people ties between the two countries.
"The new generation in India and Egypt will be cooperating and working together. There will be more youth and sports exchanges," he said.