Home / News / India /  Who is Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, India’s Republic Day Chief Guest?

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is set to arrive in New Delhi as India’s Chief Guest for Republic Day. President al-Sisi will be India’s first Chief Guest from Egypt.

al-Sisi, a former General and Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces, rose to power in the tumultuous years after the Arab Spring, a series of protests that swept the Middle-East. Egypt itself was rocked by turmoil that brought down longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. The political instability that followed Mubarak’s downfall saw al-Sisi surpass more senior officers in the Egyptian military and become Commander-in-Chief and Minister for Defence. In 2013, he played a key role in bringing down the hapless administration of Mohammed Morsi before formally taking charge as President in 2014.

“President El-Sisi’s upcoming visit to India is a very significant step in the blossoming of bilateral relations for several reasons. To begin with, there is great symbolic importance with the timing of President El-Sisi’s visit on January 26: It will be the first time Egypt has been invited as a guest country for India’s republic day. The occasion signals the momentum towards the revival of the Cairo-Delhi axis and greater cooperation between the two states with similar conceptions of national identity and history (being self-proclaimed “civilization states")," says Mohammed Soliman, who is Director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C.

Prior to this, India-Egypt relations had been through something of a fallow period, opines Kabir Taneja, Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank. Despite the strong ties between Nehru and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s, the political rise of Islamist- organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood in the succeeding decades reduced interest in building bilateral ties. However, that has changed. According to Taneja, India’s diplomatic push towards West Asia in recent years has raised its profile in Cairo. For New Delhi, Taneja says, the visit may prove a shot in the arm that allows India to break into key industries like defence and shipbuilding in Egypt. India’s pursuit of economic opportunity in the region, best exemplified through the India-UAE trade agreement signed last year, has driven New Delhi to take a fresh look at Cairo and vice-versa.

Soliman concurs with this view. “From a more material point of view, the visit will be an opportunity for India and Egypt to solidify and expand bilateral ties in several key areas of cooperation, such as food security, trade, defense, and regional security. The two countries may also use the visit to align on subjects such as the consolidation of West Asia and the navigation of great power competition," he argues.

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