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India offers to share democracy expertise with Egypt

New Delhi,Diplomacy, Tue, 16 Oct 2012 IANS

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) As the world's largest democracy, India is willing to share its expertise with the new government in Egypt, a leading Indian official said Tuesday as the two countries began a Track II dialogue.

Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) director general Rajiv Bhatia also spoke on "anxiety about some facets of the Arab Spring" that has ushered in a wave of democracy in the Arab world.

"Developments in the Arab world in the past two years have changed the contours of political and socio-cultural landscape of the region," Bhatia said in his opening remarks at the start of the dialogue with the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA), a leading think tank in that country.

ICWA is India's oldest foreign policy think tank.

"As the world's largest and successful democracy, India warmly welcomes the triumph of democratic forces in Egypt in particular and wishes to share its experience and expertise appropriately," he said.

"But there is also anxiety about some facets of the Arab Spring. A leading Indian foreign policy has referred to 'a much darker and destructive aspect to this political transformation'."

Bhatia underlined Egypt's importance.

"Egypt, being the most vital player in the region in terms of military power, strategic location and human resources, enjoys special significance for India," he said.

"Its historic relationship with India, running from ancient times to the modern era, through NAM period and the post-Cold War era, now needs to be re-looked and refined, in light of the changing matrix in the region."

The Track II dialogue seeks to redefine an old relationship with Egypt after an elected government took office in Cairo after a mass upsurge ousted the regime of president Hosni Mubarak.

"Our dialogue takes place at a time of momentous developments that underline the vast potential for expansion of mutual understanding and cooperation between India and Egypt, two ancient civilizations linked through a long history of contacts and strong mutuality of interests," Bhatia said, hoping that the dialogue will lead to "a new and more promising era in India-Egypt relations".

A four-member ECFA team headed by its executive director Amin Shalaby, who is also Egypt's ambassador in India, is here to take part in the conference. Eminent Indian diplomats and academics will join the meet to discuss strategic, political and economic issues of common interest.

The dialogue could be the prelude to a visit here by new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Issues of Syrian civil unrest, Egyptian peace initiative and mediation efforts by the Arab League, building up of Israel-Iran tensions, and the Palestine issue will also figure in the discussions.

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