Mubarak, coming after 25 years, seeks diverse ties

November 17th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, making his first visit here in a quarter of a century, Monday sought to diversify economic ties with India to include IT and energy cooperation as he showcased his country as the preferred investment hub in the North Africa region. “We have managed to diversify our trade to cover a wide range of goods and I am sure there is room for further expansion”, Mubarak told leading Indian businesspersons and entrepreneurs at a meeting organised by India’s apex business bodies.

Indian investment in Egypt could reach $2 billion in the next few years, Mubarak, Egypt’s ruler for nearly three decades, stressed.

This was Mubarak’s first public engagement since he arrived in India Sunday on a three-day visit, that comes after 25 years, seeking to revitalise ties between the two growing economies and co-founders of non-aligned movement.

Mubarak had last visited here when New Delhi hosted the non-aligned summit under then prime minister Indira Gandhi in March 1983.

With Egypt nurturing ambitions of becoming a major outsourcing hub of the region, Cairo is seeking to leverage the prowess of Indian IT companies.

Indian direct investments in Egypt currently stand at around $800 million and cover a wide swathe of areas, including industry, services, ICT, construction, financing, agriculture, oil and gas as well as tourism.

Underlining “remarkable economic transformation” under way on his country, Mubarak underscored Egypt’s increasing attractiveness as a magnet for direct foreign investment.

“Egypt has emerged as one of the leading economies in Africa and Middle East and is ranked as the most attractive destination for foreign direct investments in its region,” said Mubarak.

India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath agreed with Mubarak on the need to scale up economic engagement between one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and Arab Africa’s economic power.

India prefers Egypt and gets similar treatment from it not only on trade front but also in areas of business and economic relations, he said.

India and Egypt need to intensify their trade relations in the field of agriculture and allied sectors, stressed Anil K. Agarwal, an industrialist and a former president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM).

With bilateral trade surpassing $3 billion, increasing trade and investment between the two countries is on top of Mubarak’s India agenda. The two countries are now eyeing an ambitious target of $10 billion trade by 2010.

Mubarak will hold delegation-level talks with Manmohan Singh Tuesday on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

Besides increasing trade and investment, terrorism, UN reforms and the Middle East peace process will be among the issues that will figure prominently in discussions.

Several economic and cultural agreements are expected to be signed during the visit.

President Pratibha Patil will formally present the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, which was announced in 1995, to Mubarak at a ceremony in the capital Tuesday.

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