Imparting new momentum, India and Egypt on Sunday elevated their relationship to a ‘strategic partnership’ after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi held wide-ranging talks with a particular focus on enhancing political and security cooperation.
Modi, who made a state visit to Egypt at the invitation of the President, held a private one-on-one conversation with El-Sisi during which they reviewed important developments in the region and the world. This was the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Egypt in 26 years.
Modi and El-Sisi inked the strategic partnership document after their wide-ranging talks encompassing further enhancing political and security cooperation, defence collaboration, trade and investment ties, scientific and academic exchanges and strengthening people-to-people contacts.
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“Besides the agreement on strategic partnership, the two countries also signed three more pacts on — agriculture and allied sectors; protection and preservation of monuments and archaeological sites; and competition law,” foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters in Cairo.
Modi and El-Sisi also discussed further cooperation in G-20, highlighting the issues of food and energy insecurity, climate change and the need for the Global South to have a concerted voice.
The Prime Minister also extended an invitation to El-Sisi to attend the G-20 Summit in New Delhi in September.
“My visit to Egypt was a historic one. It will add renewed vigour to India-Egypt relations and will benefit the people of our nations. I thank President El-Sisi, the Government and the people of Egypt for their affection,” Modi said on Twitter as he departed for India Sunday evening.
El-Sisi also conferred the ‘Order of the Nile’ honour on Modi, the 13th highest state honour to be awarded to the Prime Minister.
“It is with great humility that I accept the ‘Order of the Nile.’ I thank the Government and people of Egypt for this honour. It indicates the warmth and affection they have towards India and the people of our nation,” Modi tweeted in both English and Arabic.
The ‘Order of the Nile’ is a pure gold collar consisting of three-square gold units comprising Pharaonic symbols.
The first unit resembles the idea of protecting the state against the evils, the second one resembles prosperity and happiness brought by the Nile and the third one refers to wealth and endurance.
The three units are connected to one another by a circular gold flower decorated with turquoise and ruby.
Hanging from the collar is a hexagonal pendant decorated with flowers of the Pharaonic style, and turquoise and ruby gems.
In the middle of the pendant, there is a protruding symbol representing the Nile that brings together the North (represented by the Papyrus) and the South (represented by the Lotus).
“A mark of abiding friendship between India & Egypt! PM @narendramodi was conferred with the highest civilian honour of Egypt, the ‘Order of the Nile’, by President @AlsisiOfficial in Cairo,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet.
Over the past nine years, the Prime Minister has been conferred the Companion of the Order of Logohu, the highest civilian award of Papua New Guinea; the Companion of the Order of Fiji; the Ebakl Award by the Republic of Palau; the Order of the Druk Gyalp, the highest civilian decoration by Bhutan.
Modi has also been conferred with the Legion of Merit by the US Government; the King Hamad Order of the Renaissance by Bahrain; the Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddin, the highest honour of the Maldives; the Order of St. Andrew award, the highest civilian honour of Russia.
Modi has also received the Order of Zayed Award, the highest civilian honour of the United Arab Emirates; the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine Award, the highest honour of Palestine; the State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan, the highest civilian honour of Afghanistan and the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud, the highest honour of Saudi Arabia awarded to non-Muslim dignitaries.
Modi visits historic Al-Hakim mosque
Modi on Sunday visited Egypt’s historic 11th century Al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo, restored with the help of India’s Dawoodi Bohra community.
On the second day of his state visit to Egypt, Modi visited the Fatimid era Shia mosque where he was received by minister of tourism and antiquities of Egypt, Dr Mostafa Waziri.
Modi was shown around the mosque whose latest restoration was completed about three months ago.
He appreciated the intricate carved inscriptions on the walls and doorways of the mosque which was built in 1012.
“Honoured to visit the historic Al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo. It’s a profound testament to Egypt’s rich heritage and culture,” he tweeted in both Arabic and English.
Prime Minister Modi also met the leaders of Bohra community, who are actively involved in the upkeep of this Fatimid era Shia mosque and highlighted the strong people-to-people ties between India and Egypt, the MEA said in a press release.
The mosque mainly performs Friday prayers and all five obligatory prayers.
Over a thousand years old, al-Hakim is the fourth oldest mosque in Cairo, and the second Fatimid mosque to be built in the city.
The mosque covers an area of 13,560 square metres, with the iconic central courtyard occupying 5,000 square metres.
The Bohra community, which is settled in India, originated from the Fatimids. They renovated the mosque from 1970 onwards and have been maintaining it since then, India’s ambassador to Egypt Ajit Gupte earlier said.
“The Prime Minister has a very close attachment to the Bohra community who have also been in Gujarat for many years and it will be an occasion for him to again visit a very important religious site for the Bohra community,” Gupte added.
The historic Mosque has been named after Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the 16th Fatimid caliph and is an important religious and cultural site for the Dawoodi Bohra community.
The Dawoodi Bohra Muslims are a sect of followers of Islam who adhere to the Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi school of thought.
They are known to have originated from Egypt and later shifted to Yemen, before establishing a presence in India in the 11th century.
Prime Minister Modi has a long-standing and warm relationship with the Dawoodi Bohras even before he became prime minister.
PM spends time at Giza pyramids
The iconic Great Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, visited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, was built by three Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt more than 4000 years ago.
Built in the early 26th century BC, over a period of about 27 years, the pyramid is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only wonder that has remained largely intact.
Located in the Giza Necropolis, just outside the city of Cairo, the three fourth-dynasty pyramids erected on a rocky plateau on the west bank of the Nile River near Al-Jizah (Giza) in northern Egypt, which mark a glorious time in human civilisation.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest Egyptian pyramid and served as the tomb of pharaoh Khufu, who ruled under the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.
The ancient ruins of the Memphis area, including the Pyramids of Giza — Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure — were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
It was built by quarrying an estimated 2.3 million large blocks, weighing 6 million tonnes in total.
The pyramids, part of a large complex that includes temples, burial tombs, and more, were built by the ancient Egyptian pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.
Modi pays respects to Indian soldiers at Heliopolis War Cemetery in Cairo
Modi on Sunday visited the Heliopolis Commonwealth War Cemetery here and offered tributes to the Indian soldiers who bravely fought and laid down their lives in Egypt and Palestine during the First World War.
Modi offered floral tributes and signed the visitor’s book at the Cemetery that comprises the Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial and the Heliopolis (Aden) Memorial.
“Prime Minister paid homage to over 4,300 valiant Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Egypt and Aden during the 1st World War,” the MEA said in a press release.
The Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial commemorates nearly 4,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting in Egypt and Palestine in the First World War.
The Heliopolis (Aden) Memorial pays tribute to more than 600 men of the Commonwealth forces who sacrificed their lives for Aden during the First World War.
The Cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It also houses 1,700 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War as well as several war graves of other nationalities, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
Located at the south end of the Suez Canal, the original Port Tewfik memorial was unveiled in 1926.
Designed by Sir John Burnet, the original memorial sustained damages during the 1967-1973 Israeli-Egyptian conflict and was eventually demolished, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
In October 1980, a new memorial with panels bearing the names of the martyred Indian soldiers was unveiled by the Indian Ambassador to Egypt in the Heliopolis Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery.
Last October, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar paid tributes at Heliopolis Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery.
PM meets Indian community members in Egypt
Members of the Indian community in Egypt showered fulsome praise on Narendra Modi, hailing him as “India’s hero”, as he became the first Indian prime minister to undertake a bilateral visit to the strategically located Middle East nation in 26 years.
Modi, who arrived here on Saturday after concluding a high-profile state visit to the US at the invitation of President Joe Biden, was given a rousing welcome at the Ritz Carlton hotel, where he interacted with the Indian diaspora in separate groups.
Most of the members appreciated Modi’s historic address to the US Congress and the economic progress of the country under his leadership.
“You are India’s hero,” a member of the Indian diaspora told Modi, who responded by saying that efforts by every Indian, including those living overseas, have contributed to the country’s success.
“Saara Hindustan sabka hero hai. Desh ke log mehnat karte, desh ki taraqqi hoti hai (Entire India, everyone’s hero. The people of the country work hard and the nation progresses),” the prime minister said.
“This is a result of your hard work. Your devotion is paying off (Yeh aapki mehnat ka nateeja hai. Aapki tapasya kaam kar rahi hai,” Modi said.
Modi also met the members of the Bohra community, who have strong linkages with his home state of Gujarat.
Earlier, waving the Indian tricolour, members of the Indian community welcomed the Prime Minister to chants of ‘Modi, Modi’, ‘Vande Mataram’ when he reached the hotel in Cairo.
An Egyptian woman, Jena, dressed in a saree, greeted Modi with the popular song Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge from the movie Sholay.
Impressed by the rendition of the Kishore Kumar-Manna Dey number, the Prime Minister expressed surprise when Jena said she knew very little Hindi and had never visited India.
“Kisi ko pata bhi nahi chalega ki aap Misr ki beti ho ya Hindustan ki beti ho (Nobody will be able to tell whether you are a daughter of Egypt or a daughter of India),” Modi said.
“Deeply moved by the warm welcome from the Indian diaspora in Egypt. Their support and affection truly embody the timeless bonds of our nations. Also noteworthy were people from Egypt wearing Indian dresses. Truly, a celebration of our shared cultural linkages,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
Modi is visiting Egypt at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as part of the efforts by the two countries to enhance their strategic partnership.