New Delhi: Close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to the United Arab Emirates, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit Egypt on August 23.
Thereafter, Sushma Swaraj will proceed to Germany.
Terrorism and trade are likely to be top on the agenda of Sushma Swaraj’s talks in Egypt as President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has approved new stringent counter-terrorism laws to fight growing jihadist insurgency in his country.
Jihadist groups have stepped up attacks in Egypt after the overthrow of the then president Mohammed Morsi two years ago, and the government has launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt is also taking ambitious steps towards boosting its economy, with Sisi earlier this month inaugurating the $8 billion New Suez Canal, a waterway running parallel to a part of the 19th century Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea – the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
A 460 sq km economic zone is also being set up around the New Suez Canal which will be used to develop an international industrial and logistics hub to attract foreign investment.
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari visited Cairo in early August to invite Sisi for the India-Africa Forum Summit to be held in New Delhi in October.
Modi is visiting the UAE 34 years after the last prime ministerial visit by Indira Gandhi in 1981.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was in the capital to brief the Indian government on the nuclear deal his country inked with world powers.
Zarif met Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari to give a forward push to the Chahbahar port agreement. Modi met Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Ufa, Russia, last month.
Sushma has been keeping up India’s engagement with the Middle East. She visited the UAE in November 2014, Bahrain in September and Oman in February this year.
The Emir of Qatar was in India in March 2015, while the foreign affairs minister of Oman visited in June 2014, within days of the new government taking over.
India’s talks on terrorism with the leadership in the Arab world comes even as two Indians kidnapped early this month in Libya remain in captivity of the Islamic State. The two were among the four Indian professors kidnapped in Sirte in Libya. While two have been released, two others continue in captivity.
Thirty-nine Indians kidnapped in June 2014 in Mosul, Iraq, by the Islamic State, are still in captivity. The government insists the men are still alive.
The UAE and Egypt are concerned about Islamist militancy creeping into their respective countries. While Egypt has cracked down with a heavy hand on the Islamist party, Muslim Brotherhood, in an effort to keep the secular fabric alive in the country, the UAE has also cracked down hard on suspected terrorists.