A former Egyptian Helwan HA-300 aircraft is displayed in the Flugwerft Schleißheim.
“…The two sides agreed to enhance and deepen defense cooperation in all fields, especially through exchanging technological expertise in defense industries, visiting military exercises, and exchanging best practices…”
Egypt and India have recently accelerated security cooperation. In 2021, the two militaries held naval, air force, and tactical counterterrorism training exercises, and in September 2022, India’s defense minister visited Egypt to sign a bilateral defense cooperation agreement. In January 2023, President Sisi of Egypt traveled to India as the guest of honor for Republic Day celebrations, where he and his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Modi, signed an agreement to elevate bilateral relations to the level of “strategic partnership.” According to the first accompanying excerpt from the final joint statement of that event, published by the Egyptian government’s State Information Service, the Egyptian-Indian strategic partnership will include an expansion of bilateral military exercises, efforts to bolster defense co-production, and increased exchanges of technological expertise.
Indeed, the potential for their bilateral collaboration is clear, as Egypt’s interest in strengthening its domestic defense industry aligns neatly with India’s interest in growing its foreign military sales and partnerships. One platform allegedly being discussed in this context is India’s Tejas Mk1A light combat aircraft. According to the second accompanying excerpt from the Indian English-language daily Hindustan Times, in February 2023, the chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited revealed that talks are ongoing for Egypt to buy 20 aircraft. He added: “Egypt has also shown interest in creating a local aerospace ecosystem. We will help facilitate that.” Media reports from early 2021 also point to Egyptian interest in the BrahMos[GRLCUT(1] , a cruise missile developed by India and Russia, and in the Indian-manufactured Akash[GRLCUT(2] medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile system.[i] Both Egypt and India have significant Soviet and Russian equipment in their arsenals, and maintenance and repair of these systems are considered a likely area of collaboration, particularly in light of Russia’s expected Ukraine-related difficulties in meeting the needs of its defense export clients. The deepening Indian-Egyptian defense partnership has generated several commentaries linking recent events to developments in the 1960s, when the future of Indian-Egyptian defense cooperation seemed bright. At the time, leaders in Egypt and India saw their countries playing a critical geopolitical balancing role as founding leaders of the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement. Perhaps not surprisingly, the official statement at the end of Sisi’s January 2023 visit to India referred to both countries’ commitment to, among others, “the founding values of the Non-Aligned Movement.” As illustrated by the third accompanying excerpt from the Indian English-language news website The Print, this historical period is instructive as Egypt and India look to ramp up bilateral defense collaboration in an increasingly competitive geopolitical context. Specifically, the article looks at some of the lessons for the present from the short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to co-produce a light fighter jet—the Helwan HA-300—in the 1960s.
“زيارة الرئيس السيسي إلى جمهورية الهند
(President Sisi’s visit to the Republic of India),” Egypt State Information Service (National Public Information Agency), 24 January 2023. https://tinyurl.com/bderkpah
The two countries affirmed their commitment to… the founding values of the Non-Aligned Movement, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries…
The two leaders welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for defense cooperation during the visit of Mr. Rajnath Singh, Indian Defense Minister, to Egypt in September 2022, and expressed their appreciation for the bilateral military cooperation reaching a new level. The two sides agreed to enhance and deepen defense cooperation in all fields, especially through exchanging technological expertise in defense industries, visiting military exercises, and exchanging best practices. They also stressed the need for co-production in the defense sector and discussed specific proposals within the framework of the Joint Defense Committee
“India in talks with Argentina, Egypt for possible Tejas sale,” The Hindustan Times (Indian English-language daily), 14 February 2023. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-in-talks-with-argentina-egypt-for-possible-tejas-sale-101676399079273.html
India is in talks with Egypt and Argentina for a possible sale of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) to their air forces as the country sharpens its focus on getting a toehold in foreign markets and boosting defence exports, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) chairman CB Ananthakrishnan said at the Aero India 2023 air show on Tuesday. Egypt has projected a requirement for 20 aircraft, while Argentina needs 15 new fighters, he said. “Egypt has also shown interest in creating a local aerospace ecosystem. We will help facilitate that.”
“With Rajnath Singh in Cairo, India-Egypt pick up Nehru-Nasser thread left off in the ’60s,” The Point (Indian English-language news website), 19 September 2022. https://theprint.in/past-forward/with-rajnath-singh-in-cairo-india-egypt-pick-up-nehru-nasser-thread-left-off-in-the-60s/1133839/ Singh’s talks with his Egyptian counterpart, General Mohamed Zaki, will explore new initiatives to intensify military-to-military engagements and deepen cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries. This, after decades of sketchy contact despite India-Egypt’s close ties in the Nehru-Nasser heyday of the Non-Aligned Movement… Almost six decades on, though, the strategic imperatives that drove the collaboration still exist: Heavily dependent on imports, both countries know that true military modernisation will need the creation of a defence-industrial base at home.
[i] See: “Egypt considers purchase of Indian missile system,” al-Monitor (Middle East-focused news and analysis website), 2 February 2021. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/02/egypt-india-russia-made-brahmos-missile-system-weapons.html
Image: A former Egyptian Helwan HA-300 aircraft is displayed in the Flugwerft Schleißheim
Source: Photo by High Contrast, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Helwan_HA-300,_Flugwerft_Schleißheim.jpg
Attribution: CC 3.0