CAIRO: India sets an example all Arab states need to follow in order to progress, Mostafa El Feki, chairman of foreign affairs committee of the People’s Assembly, said.
At a lecture titled “India -Egypt Relations: Challenges and Opportunities, El Feki explained that India follows the “theory of necessity, where its citizens acknowledge the fact that they depend on one another and work together to be able to move forward.
“If Arabs learn from the Indians, we would be able to advance together, he said.
The lecture was organized by the Egypt-India Friendship Association in cooperation with the Maulana Azad Center for Indian Culture (MACIC) and was held on Monday.
He also lauded the Indians’ loyalty to their culture. “You can identify an Indian person easily, they have a sense of belonging to their culture unlike us Egyptians, he said.
Although India is home to about 1,129,866,154 people occupying more than 15 percent of the world’s population, the country has never lost its identity or natural preserves.
The Indian Republic consists of 28 states and seven union territories with a parliamentary system of democracy.
“The country is the biggest democracy experiment you can ever find in the world, said El Feki, “People there learnt to adjust by faith, that is why communism [did not affect] the country.
According to El Feki there have been around 700 million candidates of different religious and ethnic backgrounds to run for top governmental positions.
“There were three Muslim Indian presidents, he said, “the current prime minister is a Sikh, which proves how much this country respects minorities.
Despite, being the world’s 12th largest economy at market exchange rates and the fourth largest in purchasing power, India still suffers from poverty, illiteracy, disease and malnutrition.
“But they help each other survive, the Indians have the ability to seize opportunities, El Feki said.
“In India, there is local food just like fuul and falafel in Egypt, but unlike here, the Indian’s food ingredients are local and feasible to the poor, he continued, “that is how the rich eat and the poor survive.
El Feki also highlighted some of the similarities between both countries.
“We come from the same stock, he said, “The way people think, the non-violent nature of the two nations and the respect we hold for foreigners makes Egyptians and Indians of the same stock.
Ali Eldin Helal, president of the Egypt-India Friendship Association and former Minister of Youth outlined the history of Egypt’s relationship with India.
Egypt-India relations date back to Saad Zaghloul and Mahatma Gandhi owing to the common goals of their respective movements of independence.
“The relations between both countries were recognized a long time ago, he said.
“First, it was Ghandi when he passed through the Suez Canal in order to go to the roundtable conference in London 1931, then Abdul Nasser’s relation with [former Prime Minister Jawaharlal] Nehru, he explained.
In 1961, former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru founded the Non-Aligned Movement with Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito.
Also earlier during the 1956 war, Nehru supported Egypt, threatening to withdraw India from the British Commonwealth.
Bilateral relations however dwindled during the Sadat regime, but were revived during President Hosni Mubarak’s era.
However, since Mubarak’s visit to India in 1983, things remained stagnant until he revisited the country in 2009.
According to Ambassador of India R. Swaminathan, governments are just facilitators of the process of interaction. “It is the people and the private sectors that enhance the process.
“Modernization does not mean westernization, El Feki said.
Helal also further explained that the future of Egypt’s economy depends on countries in East Asia rather countries in the west.
Bilateral trade between India and Egypt reached $2.2 billion in 2006. India and Egypt are aiming to achieve $10 in billion bilateral trade by 2010.
But despite the Indian-Egyptian bilateral cooperation in economics and politics, there is still a cultural gap between both countries.
Suchitra Durai, director of the Maulana Azad Center for Indian Culture, explained that “culture should not be enforced but rather should be passed along smoothly.
“We run different cultural exchange programs between both countries to offer a chance [for citizens] to learn about one another, she added.
According to Durai the number of Egyptians applying for an exchange program in India is gradually increasing.
The Maulana Azad Center is named after a Muslim scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. He was one of the most prominent Muslim leaders to support Hindu-Muslim unity, opposing the partition of India on communal lines. Following India’s independence, he became the first Minister of Education, according to Helal.