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Morsi's India visit to boost trade and investment

Improved business links expected to include India helping Egypt to put a satellite in space. Samanth Subramanian reports from New Delhi

NEW DELHI // The Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, was in India yesterday as part of a South Asian tour to boost trade and increase investment in his nation's troubled economy.

India is Egypt's seventh largest trading partner with trade between the two countries at US$4.2 billion (Dh15.4bn) as of June last year, up 33 per cent since 2011, according to the Egyptian government. The Indian government pegs the current trade figure at $5.5bn.

Saeed Abdullah, at Egypt's ministry of industry and trade, said that the countries aim to increase trade to $8bn by 2015. India imports oil, natural gas, cotton and chemicals from Egypt, and exports frozen meat, rice, automotive parts, synthetic fibres, and light oils.

"Both countries are keen to further deepen and diversify the growing bilateral engagement during the president's visit," a statement from India's ministry of external affairs said.

Accordingly, Mr Morsi came to India with a large delegation of trade officials and business leaders as most of the three-day visit will be spent meeting with representatives of industry organisations.

Mr Morsi is scheduled to meet India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, today and later attend a banquet hosted in his honour by the president, Pranab Mukherjee.

A few days before leaving on his trip, Mr Morsi told The Hindu newspaper that he hoped Egypt could join the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa group of countries, known as the Brics nations.

"I am hoping Brics would one day become E-brics, where E stands for Egypt," Mr Morsi said. "I hope E-Brics would emerge when we start moving the economy."

The political transition in Cairo and the formation of a Muslim Brotherhood-led government have not hindered ties between Egypt and India, said Ruchita Beri, a senior research associate at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis.

"It's true that Morsi is visiting Pakistan first, on his way to India. That might mean something," Ms Beri said yesterday. "But trade ties have somehow managed to sustain and improve themselves despite the recent turmoil in Egypt."

Mr Morsi's one-day trip to Pakistan yesterday was the first bilateral visit by an Egyptian leader since Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s, Pakistan's foreign ministry said. Officials from the two countries signed agreements to promote cooperation in shipping, investment, information technology and science and technology.

Navdeep Suri, India's ambassador to Egypt, said in Cairo ahead of Mr Morsi's visit that India would assist Egypt in putting a nano-satellite into orbit.

"We talk often in general terms about space ... but during this visit we are talking in specific terms about launching an Egyptian satellite," Mr Suri said.

ssubramanian@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press

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