Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border

Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

“Threats [to Egypt] usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense…”

Egypt has turned its strategic focus toward its eastern border amidst rising concerns that violence from Israel’s military operation in Gaza could spill over into the Sinai Peninsula. Most concerning to Egypt’s military-led government is the potential of a massive influx of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai.[i] The Egyptian military, according to the first accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, is firmly opposed to any relocation of Gaza’s residents to the Sinai. Reflecting these principles, Egyptian President Sisi has stated that “Egypt has not and will never allow the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai.”[ii] A secondary security concern for Egypt’s Armed Forces is cross-border fire from errant projectiles from both sides of the conflict.[iii] As a result of these concerns, Egypt has begun to quietly take precautions. It has increased its military and security presence around the Rafah border crossing.[iv] In late October, Egyptian military leadership conducted a readiness inspection of the Armed Forces’ 4th Armored Division, 3rd Field Army, based in Suez.[v] Military and security measures alone, however, are unlikely to ease the mounting pressure on Egypt’s border with Gaza. The second accompanying excerpt, also from al-Araby al-Jadeed, argues that Egypt will need to overhaul its strategic thinking to cope with these pressures. To do so, the author argues, the Egyptian government should provide immediate, open support for Hamas via all means possible short of war. In addition, he argues that Egypt should begin to “coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.”


مخططات تهجير الفلسطينيين إلى سيناء… رفض مصري ممتد لعقود

“Decades-long Egyptian rejection of plans to forcibly relocate Palestinians to Sinai,” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 2 November 2023.https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/مخططات-تهجير-الفلسطينيين-إلى-سيناء-رفض-مصري-ممتد-لعقود

Despite these fears, this plan still depends on many factors in order to implement it, “some of which are almost impossible,” according to the description of a former Egyptian security official, who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity. On top of these factors is “the position of the Egyptian military establishment, which absolutely rejects the idea of ​​settling Palestinians in Sinai , due to many considerations related to Egyptian national security.”

The former official added, “The army’s rejection of that idea existed previously, during the era of the late President Hosni Mubarak, and it still exists today, which can be seen in the messages conveyed in President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent speeches, which seemed to be directed to the armed forces in order to reassure its leaders and allay their fears.”

لماذا على مصر التفكير في أمنها القومي بشكل مختلف؟

“Why should Egypt think about its national security in a different way?” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 12 November 2023. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/لماذا-على-مصر-التفكير-في-أمنها-القومي-بشكل-مختلف

… Egyptian national security theory and its constants, or what remains of those constants, the most important of which is that threats usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense, and that whenever Gaza collapses, Egypt’s defensive lines collapse, regardless of the degree of compatibility with the political or administrative system in power following the collapse…

The Egyptian government must immediately stop talking about more than meager aid, as after a month of aggression, no more people entered the Gaza Strip than they did one day before. It must restrain the “Samsung media”, as this is a major national security issue and a top priority, and this is not the time to export hatred for the Palestinian resistance and belittle it, nor the time to outbid it, condemn it, or blame the victims in any way. Rather, it is the best piece of chess through which everything you want can be achieved. Without a single concession. Egypt should coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.


[i] The idea of a population transfer from Gaza to the Sinai is not new and has been floated several times before. Since 7 October, several Israeli statements and documents have alluded to the forcible displacement of Gaza’s population as a policy option. See for instance: “An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai,” AP, 30 October 2023. https://apnews.com/article/israel-gaza-population-transfer-hamas-egypt-palestinians-refugees-5f99378c0af6aca183a90c631fa4da5a; Giora Eiland. “It’s time to rip off the Hamas band-aid,” Ynet News, 12 October 2023. https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sju3uabba

[ii] Statement quoted in: “Defend and populate Sinai,” al-Ahram Weekly, 31 October 2023. https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/511373.aspx

[iii] This includes projectiles fired toward Israel from the south that have landed along the Sinai’s Red Sea coast, as well as cross-border Israeli fire that hit an Egyptian border guard post near Gaza. On the former, see: “Drone blasts hit two Egyptian Red Sea towns, Israel points to Houthi,” AP, 27 October 2023. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/explosion-heard-egyptian-red-sea-town-near-israeli-border-witness-2023-10-27/ On the latter, see: “At least seven injured as Israeli tank ‘accidentally’ hits Egyptian border,” al-Jazeera, 22 October 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/22/at-least-seven-injured-as-israeli-tank-accidentally-hits-egyptian-border

[iv] Images of Egyptian special forces deployed in Rafah can be found at: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1715623393909694745

[v] The inspection included the first official appearance of the South Korean K9A1 155 mm self-propelled howitzer in the Egyptian military.  For images and description of the platforms involved see: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1717074441501290762.

Image Information:

Image: Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Source: CIA Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/egypt/map Attribution: Public Domain

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2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
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2018-02-01 A Malaysian Perspective on US-Iran Relations (Jacob Zenn)
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2018-02-01 Iran Approaches the Syria-Jordan Border (Lucas Winter)
2018-02-01 Indonesian Perspectives on the Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 India’s Interest in Stability in Iran (Matthew Stein)
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2018-02-01 Saudi-Iran Tensions Seen in Nigerian Crackdown on Shia Group (Jacob Zenn)

2018-01-01 Iran: New Military Budget Proposed (Michael Rubin)
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India’s Security Engagement With Egypt and Saudi Arabia Evolving

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Mohammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (2016)

“The military-to-military ties are likely to develop further, with greater efforts toward interoperability and understanding each other’s security concerns…” 

India’s military influence activities continue to increase in key Arab countries Egypt and Saudi Arabia.[i] In May 2023, the commanders of the Indian and Egyptian armies met in Cairo to discuss deepening bilateral military cooperation, as reported in the first accompanying excerpt, from the Twitter account of the Indian Embassy in Cairo. The meeting follows up on earlier high-level engagements discussing defense cooperation, most notably Egyptian President Sisi’s January 2023 visit to India. Their armies conducted a bilateral exercise in Egypt in January, and earlier in May, the Indian and Egyptian air forces also conducted joint training, as mentioned in the second accompanying excerpt from the Egyptian defense ministry website. Egypt is seen as a possible gateway for Indian weapons sales to Africawith rumors of looming weapons sales and possible joint production agreements between the two countries.

The Indian military has also increasingly engaged with their Saudi counterparts. Indian and Saudi naval forces held a training exercise in the Persian Gulf in May, concurrent with a 3-week training program for around 50 Saudi naval personnel in India. India-Saudi military ties “are likely to develop further, with greater efforts toward interoperability and understanding each other’s security concerns,” according to an Indian defense expert cited in the excerpt from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. The two countries’ heads of state spoke in June on deepening relations in several areas, including defense.[ii] Saudi Arabia remains among the top global arms importers and an attractive potential customer for the Indian weapons industry. Saudi media is enamored of the narrative of multipolarity but rarely considers India as part of the great power competition discussion. India’s strategic importance is evaluated through the lens of its membership in non-Western multilateral organizations such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt recently became SCO dialogue partners and have moved toward greater involvement in BRICS institutions.[iii] India’s growing security involvement in the Arab world bears watching even though it remains overshadowed by the specter of growing Russian and Chinese influence in the region.


@indembcairo. Twitter, 15 May 2023. https://twitter.com/indembcairo/status/1658039664345858049 

Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande proceeded on a three-day visit to Egypt. The visit will provide an opportunity to enhance bilateral #DefenceCooperation and strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

“The Egyptian And The Indian Air Forces Carry Out A Joint Air Training At An Egyptian Air Base,” Egyptian Ministry of Defense Website, 8 March 2023. https://www.mod.gov.eg/ModWebSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=42648

Within the framework of supporting and strengthening military cooperation relations with friendly and brotherly countries, the Egyptian and Indian Air Forces carried out a joint air exercise at an Egyptian air base. The training included implementation of a number of joint drills, including training on aerial refueling, which contributes to the exchange of training experiences between the elements participating from both sides

“Indian navy chief welcomes Saudi cadets during first joint training,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 2 June 2023. https://www.arabnews.com/node/2314776/saudi-arabia  

Muddassir Quamar, a Middle East expert and associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said there have also been efforts to develop cooperation in nonconventional defense areas, as well as the defense industry. “The military-to-military ties are likely to develop further, with greater efforts toward interoperability and understanding each other’s security concerns,” he told Arab News.


[i] For background see: “India-Egypt Ties: Sharply Rising Graph of Engagement,” Bharatshakti (Indian defense publication), 12 December 2022. https://bharatshakti.in/india-egypt-ties-sharply-rising-graph-of-engagement/ and “How India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Ties Are Deepening, And Will Help The Defence Industry,” ABP News (Indian news network), 28 May 2023. https://news.abplive.com/india-at-2047/how-india-saudi-arabia-strategic-ties-are-deepening-and-will-help-the-defence-industry-1605245

[ii] “PM Modi, Saudi Crown Prince review ties with focus on connectivity and defence,” Hindustan Times (Indian daily), 9 June 2023. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pm-saudi-crown-prince-review-ties-with-focus-on-connectivity-and-defence-101686249683889.html

[iii] Egypt recently became an official member of the New Development Bank, sometimes referred to as the “BRICS bank,” and Saudi Arabia is reportedly in talks to join. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have also both expressed interest in BRICS membership and are considered potential candidates were the group to expand.

Image Information:

Image:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Mohammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (2016) 
Source: Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prime_Minister_Narendra_Modi_meeting_Mohammad_bin_Salman,_Deputy_Crown_Prince_of_Saudi_Arabia.jpg    
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 

UAE Seeking Greater Cooperation With Egyptian Defense Sector

H.E. Mr. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt emplanes for Egypt (State Visit of President of Egypt to India (January 24-26, 2023)

H.E. Mr. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt emplanes for Egypt (State Visit of President of Egypt to India (January 24-26, 2023).

…The United Arab Emirates has expressed great interest in investing in Egypt’s defense industry…”

In April 2023, UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed made a state visit to Egypt. Although the visit took place in the shadow of conflict in Sudan, where Egypt and the UAE support opposing factions, it was primarily focused on expanding economic cooperation in various sectors, according to the first accompanying excerpt from the Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. One sector where deeper cooperation would be highly consequential is military production. On paper, the Egyptian and Emirati defense industries are complementary. Egypt has a relatively strong industrial base and a history of military production but lacks funding and investment in new technologies.[i] The UAE, meanwhile, has invested heavily in new military technologies but lacks a large national industrial base or history of military production. According to the second accompanying article, from the Arabic-language Defense Arabia website, “the United Arab Emirates has expressed great interest in investing in Egypt’s defense.” The article highlights a Memorandum of Understanding on defense cooperation signed at the IDEX defense expo in February 2023 between Egypt’s Defense Ministry and the UAE’s Tawazun Council, a key Emirati defense industry government entity. In 2020, the Egyptian government launched an initiative to bolster weapons export production, with a view to making inroads in the African market and helping its moribund economy rebound.[ii] The initiative remains stalled in part due to financial constraints, but it could receive an important boost from Gulf countries seeking regional influence via economic investments.[iii] While Emirati entities have shown interest in investing in Egypt’s state-owned enterprises, they have also grown increasingly frustrated by the Egyptian government’s lack of transparency and market reforms. Thus, potential Emirati investment in Egypt’s defense sector remains a theoretical win-win scenario that is unlikely to move forward unless the Egyptian government is willing to accept at least some of its creditors’ conditions.


“هل تعزز زيارة محمد بن زايد القاهرة الاستثمارات الإماراتية في مصر؟

Will Mohamed bin Zayed’s visit to Cairo strengthen Emirati investments in Egypt?” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 13 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/2p8nuwpm

Egyptian economist Dr. Rashad Abdo told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Emirati president’s visit to Cairo and his talks with the Egyptian president are economic talks par excellence. Whatever the political files for discussion, the context in which the visit comes confirms that economic issues will prevail.” According to Abdo, “the talks contribute to strengthening and increasing Emirati investments in Egypt in various sectors, and it is likely that the meeting focused on consolidating economic cooperation mechanisms and discussing specific Egyptian proposals for investment opportunities.”

“الإمارات تستثمر في الصناعات العسكرية المصرية.. ماذا وراء تعزيز التعاون الدفاعي بين البلدين؟

The UAE is investing in Egyptian military industries.. What is behind the strengthening of defense cooperation between the two countries?” Defense Arabia (military news website), 29 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/47yzpj82

The United Arab Emirates has expressed great interest in investing in Egypt’s defense industry, seeking to take advantage of the country’s strategic location and its growing defense sector…In an important step towards enhancing defense cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, in February 2023 at IDEX the Tawazun Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. The memorandum aims to enhance cooperation in the defense and security industries and to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.


[i] “Mapping the Formal Military Economy Part 1: A ‘Citadel’ of Egyptian Industry,” Carnegie Middle East Center, 18 November 2019. https://carnegie-mec.org/2019/11/18/mapping-formal-military-economy-part-1-citadel-of-egyptian-industry-pub-80334

[ii] “Egypt boosts local weapons production,” al-Monitor, 2 March 2020. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2020/03/egypt-plan-local-weapons-industry-africa-export-army.html

[iii] Since 2013, Gulf countries—primarily Saudi Arabia and the UAE—have provided the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi with as much as $100 billion in assistance, often with no strings attached; it is believed, however, that they are no longer willing to do so without getting guaranteed returns on their capital. See: “Gulf Investment in Egypt: A Balance of Mutual Need,” Carnegie Middle East Center, 8 May 2023. https://carnegie-mec.org/2023/05/08/gulf-investment-in-egypt-balance-of-mutual-need-pub-89641

Image Information:

Image:  H.E. Mr. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt emplanes for Egypt (State Visit of President of Egypt to India (January 24-26, 2023)
Source: India Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/meaindia/52651633276  
Attribution: CC 2.0

Key Arab Countries Join Chinese-Led Regional Body as Dialogue Partners

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

“… The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative…”

A growing number of Arab countries are joining the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as “dialogue partners.” The SCO was established in the early 2000s as a mechanism for deepening political, economic, and security cooperation between countries of Central and South Asia. It has eight member nations (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and over a dozen “observer” and “dialogue partner” nations, which may send delegates to SCO meetings and negotiate with the bloc on particular issues but do not have voting rights or official sway within the organization.

In the past year, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all been officially granted “dialogue partner” status, with Bahrain expected to follow suit. With this, roughly two-thirds of countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility have joined the SCO in some capacity.[i] While these developments bear watching, SCO partnership is—at least for now—not necessarily at odds with existing security commitments and arrangements.[ii] Instead, engagement with the SCO is seen as part of a strategic diversification approach being pursued by Arab countries in response to emerging multipolarity. Arabic-language media largely sees these moves through an economic lens and as part of what the first accompanying excerpt, published in the Qatari-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, considers China’s “efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.” Arab countries’ interest in the SCO, however, should not be dismissed as a purely economic phenomenon bereft of potential strategic implications. According to a former Egyptian diplomat cited in the second accompanying article, published last September in the prominent Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Russia will seek to use the SCO “as an additional point in its confrontations with the West.” Russian attempts to use the SCO for strategic leverage against NATO would likely cause friction within the organization, clashing not only with China’s more regional and economic focus but also with the strategic interests of other SCO members. Nonetheless, growing Russo-Chinese geostrategic alignment may eventually enable the SCO’s orientation to gradually shift toward global geopolitics, particularly if its membership begins extending beyond Central and South Asia. Especially noteworthy in this regard is Iran’s interest in full SCO membership (it is currently an observer country). This interest, combined with the recent China-mediated Saudi-Iranian détente, makes the SCO a potential venue through which Iran may seek to compete with the United States. Last April, Iran was for the first time invited to participate in the SCO defense ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. As reported in the third accompanying excerpt, from the pro-Iranian Lebanese media outlet al-Mayadeen, Iran’s Defense Minister called for the establishing of a “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” and more broadly using the SCO to promote a “balance of power.” Iranian ambitions notwithstanding, the SCO remains an “alternative” rather than a “challenge” to the West, as articulated by an Indian journalist cited in the fourth accompanying excerpt, from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. Still, in a competitive world, today’s alternatives may become tomorrow’s challenges. Present Arab involvement in the SCO remains limited and largely economic in nature, but the potential for this involvement to morph in a way that that erodes U.S.-Arab security partnerships, while not imminent, is worthy of consideration.


“منظمة شنغهاي.. ترسيخ الصين لاقتصاد التعددية القطبية يتمدّد عربياً

(Shanghai Organization.. China’s consolidation of the multipolar economy is expanding in the Arab world),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 16 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/muamystt

China is seeking to attract a larger number of economically active countries to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as part of its efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.

“ماذا يعني انضمام 5 دول عربية إلى منظمة «شنغهاي»؟

(What does the accession of 5 Arab countries to the ‘Shanghai Organization’ mean?).” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 17 September 2022. https://tinyurl.com/bdf9f2v8

Ambassador Raouf Saad, the former Egyptian assistant foreign minister and former Egyptian ambassador to Moscow, acknowledged that Russia will work to exploit the matter as an additional point in its confrontations with the West. However, he stressed the constants of Egyptian foreign policy, which refuses to “enter into alliances directed at the expense of its interests.”

“وزير الدفاع الإيراني: يجب تفعيل حزام الأمن البحري لمنظمة “شنغهاي

(Iranian Defense Minister: The ‘Shanghai Organization’ maritime security belt must be activated,)” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media outlet), 29 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/35dfp45z

Today, Saturday, the Iranian Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, proposed adopting the “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” mechanism with the aim of maintaining the security of communication lines and collectively guaranteeing global trade with the participation of the armed forces of member states…

During his remarks at the meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in New Delhi, India, Ashtiani said that the achievements of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “should promote global multilateralism and balance of power.”

“Middle Eastern participation grows in China-led security bloc as new countries join,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 5 May 2023. https://www.arabnews.com/node/2298341/world
“It is a question of moving the weight or the center of gravity from the Western world — the US and EU combined — to the Eastern world, the place where the population of the world actually now exists overwhelmingly, the place where the fastest-growing economies are also present,” Suhashini Haidar, diplomatic editor at the English-language daily the Hindu, told Arab News. The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative, she said.


[i] Of the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, only eight (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Yemen) do not have any status in the SCO. However, Iraq, Israel, and Syria have all applied for dialogue partner status, while Turkmenistan has attended SCO summits as a guest attendee. That leaves Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen as the only countries with no relationship to the SCO.

[ii] SCO partnership alone means little in terms of defense commitments: Turkey, a NATO member, is an SCO dialogue partner.  Full membership in the SCO should also not be equated to membership in a defense alliance, such as NATO, given that both India and Pakistan are full members. Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have an adversarial relationship with one another, are both dialogue partners.

Image Information:

Image: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).
Source: N509FZ, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shanghai_Cooperation_Organization_Secretariat_%2820220909162501%29.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0

Egypt and India Deepen Security Cooperation

A former Egyptian Helwan HA-300 aircraft is displayed in the Flugwerft Schleißheim

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 Information:

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

New Milestone in China’s Support for Egypt’s Space Program

Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/28/2010).

Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/28/2010).

We are achieving one of the main goals of Egypt, which is the localization of the satellite industry and technology … through this cooperation with China…”

Egypt’s domestic space program is slowly taking off, thanks in part to a modest Chinese investment that is likely to pay dividends for years to come.[i] The latest milestone in Sino-Egyptian space collaboration came in late February and early March 2023, when China launched into orbit two Egyptian-assembled, remote sensing, low-earth orbit satellites, Horus-1 and Horus-2. As remote sensing tools, the Horus satellites will have various uses for the Egyptian government, including monitoring the vast desert stretches that make up approximately 95 percent of the country’s surface. In space, they join two other Egyptian-owned satellites that were launched in 2019: EgyptSat A, a Russian-made earth-observation satellite, and Tiba 1 (Thebes 1), a French-made military communications satellite.[ii]

The accompanying excerpt from Egyptian news website El Watan cites the head of the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA), who explained on a popular morning TV show that cooperation with China had put Egypt on the road toward achieving one of its key goals in space, namely the “localization of the satellite industry and technology.” The Horus satellites were made at an assembly, integration, and testing center built with Chinese grant money. Egypt hopes to eventually have a satellite launch site and a series of control stations for indigenously produced satellites.[iii] The EgSA, which was established in 2019, has collaborative agreements with the space agencies of several countries; however, Chinese financing and know-how may be playing an outsized role in its early development. Chinese support for Egypt’s space program dovetails with investments in other information and communications technology sectors that could eventually lead to deepening bilateral cooperation on military satellite and communications technology. Last February, at the IDEX 2023 arms fair in Abu Dhabi, Egypt’s Arab Organization for Industrialization signed a deal with the China Aerospace Construction Group Company to “localize manufacturing technology in several defense industries fields, including co-producing a 3D radar to detect and track UAVs.”


“وكالة الفضاء المصرية: قمر «حورس 2» يستخدم في الكشف عن الثروات المعدنية

(Egyptian Space Agency: Horus-2 used to uncover mineral resources),” El Watan (Egyptian news website), 13 March 2023. https://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/6473128e The CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency continued: “We are achieving one of the main goals of Egypt, which is the localization of the satellite industry and technology. We are talking about a major goal in the national space program, one that was partially achieved through this cooperation with China”…


[i] The Chinese investment consists of three cumulative grants: $23 million in 2016, $45 million in 2018, and $72 million in 2019. See: “Egypt Commences Implementation Phase Of China-funded MisrSat II Satellite And AIT Centre,” al-Monitor, 9 September 2019. https://africanews.space/egypt-commences-implementation-phase-of-china-funded-misrsat-ii-satellite-and-ait-centre/

[ii] Egypt’s space program is still in its infancy, but its near-term ambitions should not be dismissed. A 100-acre tract of land has been set aside for “Space City” in the yet unfinished New Administrative Capital, to the east of Cairo. Space City hosts the African Space Agency (AfSA), whose headquarters were formally opened in January 2023. See: “African Space Agency formally inaugurated,” Spacewatch Africa, 30 January 2023. https://spacewatch.global/2023/01/african-space-agency-formally-inaugurated/

[iii] “Egypt considers space program,” al-Monitor, 28 September 2020. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2020/09/egypt-manufacture-satellite-launch-space-technology.html

Image Information:

Image:  Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/28/2010)
Source:  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/12868402644       
Attribution: CC 2.0