NEW DELHI: Counter-terrorism efforts, increasing radicalisation and cyber security were among the issues that dominated PM Narendra Modi's dialogue with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, with Modi saying in a media statement later that both leaders agreed concerted action is necessary to end cross-border terrorism.
The summit also saw India and Egypt elevating their relationship to the level of strategic partnership in an effort to ramp up defence, political, energy and economic ties.
The two countries also signed five MoUs, including one for cooperation in cyber security, and discussed ways to strengthen food and healthcare security. The reference to cross-border terrorism is significant for India as it helps the government put the spotlight on Pakistan for its support to India-focused terror groups active on Pakistani soil. It also fits in neatly with the understanding in India that Egypt is one OIC country which has not fallen for Pakistan's propaganda campaign against India on the Kashmir issue.
Modi said India and Egypt, the most populous Arab country, were worried about the spread of terrorism happening around the world and that they're unanimous in the opinion that terrorism remained the most serious security threat to humanity. "Both countries also agree that concerted action is necessary to end cross-border terrorism. And for this, together we will continue to try to alert the international community," said Modi.
Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra later said both leaders strongly condemned the use of terrorism by countries as a foreign policy instrument and called for zero tolerance to terrorism and for "all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuaries to terror groups, whatever their motivation may be."
Modi also said there's immense potential for enhancing security and defence cooperation between India and Egypt. "In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in joint exercise training and capacity building between our armies. We have also decided in today's meeting to further strengthen cooperation between our defence industries, and enhance the exchange of information and intelligence related to counter-terrorism," he said, adding misuse of cyber space to spread extremist ideologies and radicalization is a growing menace. El-Sisi acknowledged efforts to deepen defence ties and said the 2 countries had a common position on the need to counter terrorism and extremism.
The meeting saw discussions also on international issues like the Ukraine conflict and its effects on food and pharma supply chains. Egypt, which imports most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, has been particularly affected and has requested India for more wheat imports. India, which supplied 61,000 tonnes last year to Egypt overriding its own ban on wheat export, is considering Egypt's request to provide more of the grain.
Modi said he and El-Sisi agreed on the need for diplomacy and dialogue to resolve international disputes. India and Egypt, which is in the middle of a financial crisis with inflation at a record high and an external debt of $170 billion, also discussed efforts to improve bilateral trade and investment in food, pharmaceuticals and other areas. El-Sisi said in his media statement that Egypt was looking to welcome more Indian tourists. He also invited Modi to visit Egypt.
On defence cooperation, a major focus area, Kwatra said in a media briefing this was based on five sub-segments. "These are exercises, training, equipment, platforms, and more importantly, industry to industry cooperation," he said.
Kwatra said after the meeting that the strategic partnership will be based on four pillars. "The first will be the pillar of political and security cooperation. Economic engagement constitutes the second pillar. Three, scientific and academic collaboration and four, wider cultural and people to people contacts," he said.