SM Krishna on a three-day visit to Egypt

SM Krishna on Friday left for Egypt on a 3-day visit during which he is expected to forge relations with North Africa`s most influential country.

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna on Friday left for Egypt on a three-day visit during which he is expected to forge relations with the new dispensation in North Africa`s most influential country and discuss the Syrian crisis with the Arab League in Cairo.

This is the first high-profile visit from India in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that toppled Egypt`s longstanding ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Ahead of talks with the new Egyptian leadership, Krishna Saturday will meet Nabil El Araby, secretary general of the Arab League and its troika of representatives Qatar, Libya and Iraq in Cairo.

With the crisis in Syria worsening, India is expected to lend diplomatic support to the Arab League`s initiative to handle the Syria crisis.

India voted for the Arab League-backed UN Security Council resolution on Syria and backed the UN General Assembly resolution which condemns the violence and supports democratic transition in that country.

Last week, India had sent Rajeev Shahare, joint secretary in charge of West Asia and North Africa in the external affairs ministry, to the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis.

Krishna will also discuss issues relating to Syria and Iran with the Arab League.

Krishna will also co-chair the sixth meeting of a joint commission with Egypt`s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.

The joint commission meeting will undertake a comprehensive review of India-Egypt cooperation in trade, economy, science, IT and culture, the external affairs ministry said.

A clutch of agreements relating to economic and technological cooperation are expected to be signed after the talks.

The two ministers will discuss steps on scaling up economic and political ties with Egypt in the midst of dramatic changes in that country following the overthrow of Mubarak in February last year.

Krishna is expected to forge equations with the transitional military-dominated Egyptian government and key stakeholders in the evolving power structure in the country.

He will meet Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chief of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces of Egypt, besides holding meeting the leadership of major Egyptian political parties.

He will unveil a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore in Cairo as part of Tagore`s 150th birth anniversary celebrations.

Bilateral trade is currently estimated to be $3.2 billion. Egypt is seeking Indian investment in diverse areas including infrastructure, agriculture, agro-processing and oil and gas.

Indian investments in Egypt are estimated to be around $2 billion in areas such as IT, petroleum, oil and gas.

Indian companies like Essar, Reliance and the Tata group are planning huge investments in Egypt, a country better known outside for pyramids, pharaohs and the Nile river cruise.

The post-Mubarak Egypt is keen to build stronger relations. Egypt`s then foreign minister Nabil Al-Araby visited India in May, barely months after the Tahrir Square uprising.

India and Egypt were among the co-founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and have enjoyed robust relations.