By Chinmaya R. Gharekhan
March 18, 2013
President Mohamed Morsi’s visit is a fresh opportunity for India and Egypt to bury the irritants of the past and rebuild their neglected ties
The ostensibly secular President Hosni Mubarak took 18 years to come to secular India to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for International Understanding; he had visited China more than once during that time. The avowedly Muslim Brotherhood member President Mohamed Morsi is visiting India within two years of assuming office. The conclusion suggests itself. Mr. Mubarak always looked West, perhaps for good reasons from his point of view, giving diminished priority to relations with developing countries and even to the interests of the Palestinian movement.
Mr. Morsi seems to be keen on looking equally at the East, perhaps more than towards the West, though he knows that it is the West which is going to provide him the much-needed funds and tourists. He has taken a conscious decision to assert Egypt’s strategic autonomy. The Egyptian President is visiting us despite being besieged by many extremely difficult challenges — raging riots, rapidly degrading economy, massive unemployment, and, above all, the clamour for reform, protection for the rights of minorities and women, to scrap the Constitution and, even to abdicate office. India should make a note of this and welcome his visit.
India-Egypt relations never regained the warmth that obtained during the Nehru-Nasser era. Nasser became a hero for us, as also for the entire developing and non-aligned world, especially after he nationalised the Suez Canal, asserting his country’s sovereignty and standing up to western pressure, including the International Monetary Fund’s refusal to give loan for the construction of the Aswan dam. Nasser’s successor Sadat did right by his country by signing the peace treaty with Israel since he managed to recover the Sinai Peninsula which Israel had occupied during the 1967 war. But he lost esteem, not only in the non-aligned world but also among large sections of his own people as he was perceived to have compromised the rights of Palestinians and to have given in to American persuasion. As for Mr. Mubarak, most Egyptians do not want even to talk about him.