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Mohamed Morsi’s Indo-Pak Visit and Beyond A visionary leader, emerging taller fast

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SYED MANSOOR AGHA analyses Mohamed Morsi’s visit to Indo-Pak subcontinent, especially his 3-day stay in New Delhi as well as the agreements signed between India and Egypt, and hopes strengthening of ties between the two and emergence of Egypt as a model modern Islamic nation.

Unperturbed by violent incidents in Mokattam District of Southern Cairo created by a campaign of his opponents to destabilise his government, President Mohamed Morsi kept his schedule intact and arrived in the Indo-Pak subcontinent on 18 March to refurbish his ties with India and Pakistan. He was warmly welcomed by Indian Muslim leaders who had a meeting with him at his request.

Before coming to India, Morsi visited Islamabad for one day. This was first formal visit by an Egyptian President to that country since Gamal Abdel Nasser’s visit in 1960s. President Anwar Sadat also visited Pakistan in 1974 to attend a multilateral summit.

“President Morsi’s decision to choose Pakistan as the first South Asian country for a bilateral visit manifests Egypt’s desire to add a new chapter to its ties with Pakistan,” said a statement issued by Egyptian Foreign Office.

The visit is being seen as “a watershed and a landmark in the traditional and friendly relations between the two large and important countries,” said the statement.

The first freely democratically elected President of mighty Arab Nation Mohamed Morsi also underlined the “importance of cooperation” between Egypt and Pakistan as between two important components of “the Islamic Ummah”. He said it is the time to “restore the Ummah’s leadership role in the world given the challenges and difficulties it is facing at present.

Morsi’s visit to the subcontinent has boosted his fast emerging stature as a tall leader of the Islamic world. Unlike his predecessors, he has a vision guided by Islamic ethos. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which he owes his allegiance to, has a clear vision of strengthening high moral values all over the world generally and in Muslims especially and wants to democratically fight and eliminate disparities, injustice and ethical chaos which have gripped the human society.

How MB sticks to morality and wants to push Islamic values crystallised recently when it criticised a UN body’s sponsored document, and told the world that the proposed convention virtually seeks to legitimise sexual anarchy and destroy family life.

In a statement, the Brotherhood pointed out that the very headline of the document, “The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)” is “deceptive” and includes items against the principles of ethics, and seeks to demolish the institution of the family, which is the building block of the society. The Brotherhood, without fearing criticism from so-called liberals, also exhorted Muslim nations to oppose it in UNO as the proposed convention is in stark contrast to Islamic ethos and teachings of the Qur’ān and Sunnah.

The body rightly challenged the draft as an “intellectual and cultural invasion to eliminate the privacy which preserves elements of Islamic societies and its cohesion.” This document seeks to grant complete sexual freedom to women, including homosexuality, which are not acceptable in value-based societies like Muslims’.

The proposed convention suggests to make it obligatory to member states to provide contraceptive devices to all adolescent girls and train them to use the devices, with the unrestricted right of abortion to pregnant women.

It seeks equality between a legitimate wife and a keep and their children and legitimises homosexuality and prostitution. It also wants to grant wives right to sue their husbands with charges of rape and penalties similar to raping or harassing a stranger. This suggestion has also been advocated in India recently during the discussion on anti-rape bill.

Proposed CEDAW also seeks blanket ban on polygamy in all cases, held Iddah illegal, allow Muslim (men and women) to marry a non-Muslim, withdraw the right of divorce from contractual parties and invest it into judiciary and equal share in the property in case of separation by the court.

This provision has shattered families in the US and other countries, where wives are tempted to seek separation to grab money, resulting in people avoiding to marry women and instead have sex relations without marriage. This in turn is causing a new problem; children are being grown up without a father. They do not know who fathered them and women are forced to care the children alone. Therefore rise in abortions.

Unfortunately no other Muslim country has raised the issue. The Muslim Brotherhood urged all Islamic countries and their leaders to reject the document in the UN, and live up to the pure family relations prescribed by Islam.

Incidentally, the statement came at a time when India was focused on a crucial law aimed to protect women from sex crimes. The discussion was loaded by “liberal” ideologies, which in effect want unethical, open sexual leisure albeit in the name of “freedom of will” and “mutual consent”. Perhaps this was why Morsi’s visit missed the warmth his predecessors, all dictators, who excelled in gagging voice of the people and pushed thousands of Islamists in jails, had received in the second largest democracy that India is. However, the “Islamist” President of Egypt gave due weight to India and stayed here for three days, while he spared only one day for Islamabad.

After concluding talks with the visiting dignitary, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said, “President Morsi and I have extensive and very productive discussions... We agreed that his visit, at an important juncture for Egypt, offers us a great opportunity to renew our relationship and take it to a different level of engagement and cooperation.”

Expressing admiration for the courage and sacrifices of the people of Egypt in ushering in a new era of democracy, Singh said India has offered to share its experience as Morsi “ably leads his nation in building strong institutions and frameworks for democracy, social justice and inclusive economic development”.

“I am convinced that Egypt’s successful transition would be an important model for the region and the world,” he said.

Underlining that India and Egypt have enormous potential for deepening cooperation across the full spectrum of ties, Singh said economic partnership has “rich possibilities”.

“We agreed that information technology, services, electronics, small and medium enterprises, manufacturing, fertilisers, and renewable energy constitute important areas of cooperation.”

Egypt’s location, as a bridge between Asia and Africa, strides a major global trade route and together with its skilled human resources makes it an attractive business destination for India, he said.

Morsi and Singh also took their time to discuss security in the region after concluding agreement on defence exchanges and co-operation to stand against climate change and terrorism and promote food and energy security.

“We agreed to intensify our efforts on issues that affect developing countries, and increase our cooperation and coordination in various international forums, including the United Nations, G-77 and the Non Aligned Movement,” the Indian prime minister said. Finally they showed their solidarity to the people of Palestine and the need for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.

Singh welcomed Morsi for his visit saying it’s a “reflection of his personal commitment” despite the Egyptian crisis. Morsi praised the P.M. as a “noble brother”.

During the visit India and Egypt inked seven agreements, including one on setting up a centre of excellence in IT at Cairo’s Al Azhar University. The centre for excellence in IT in Al Azhar University will see India provide human resources, as well as hardware and software to set up a centre for the training of up to 500 students a year. Egypt will facilitate the establishment of the centre including provision of space and logistical support.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in Information and Communication Technology, including e-governance and e-education, IT and electronics hardware, sharing of experiences in the creation of Technology Parks and IT clusters was also inked.

Another MoU on cooperation in cyber security was also signed for “exchanging information on all aspects of cyber security and supporting each other in taking appropriate measures in order to prevent cyber security incidents”.

Both sides inked an MoU for cooperation in the field of micro and small enterprises to facilitate sharing of information, meetings between enterprises, technology transfers and to provide consultation services to enhance the abilities of business enterprises of India and Egypt.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and Egypt’s ministry for Antiquities Affairs inked an MoU for joint activities, sharing of information and exchange of expertise through conferences, workshops, joint projects and to prevent illicit traffic of antiquities.

Both sides also agreed to upgrade a vocational training centre at Shourba El Kheima, Cairo, under which the National Small Industries Corporation will provide the technological up-gradation required in the area of spinning, weaving, knitting and dyeing technology.

Both sides also signed a Letter of Intent on solar energy cooperation under which 8.8 kilowatt of solar energy power would be provided for 40 households in a village in Siwa located in Martrouh in Egypt.  Another Letter of Intent was inked for launching of services of the Egyptian Nano Satellite EGYCUBESAT-1 on board India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle by Antrix Corporation Ltd.

Earlier, Egypt pushed for India to join its ambitious Suez Canal corridor project. Morsi said he welcomed India’s contribution in the Suez Canal corridor project that is aimed to become a bridge connecting Africa with Asia. The 190km project once ready would make Egypt a hub for India’s exports to the West and boost Indian exports to $200bn, he said.

On the co-operation in the field of defence, a noted analyst of foreign affairs C. Raja Mohan said, “Although both countries are distracted by domestic political concerns, establishing a strong institutional links between the two military establishments will benefit both countries.”

After extraordinary bonhomie in the 1950s, the two countries drifted apart since the 1970s. However, Morsi’s visit to India will hopefully set the stage for a comprehensive partnership in the coming years.

India is emerging as a big world economic power. Egypt has also great economic potential and strategic location on the world map. Enhanced relations with Egypt will have many more meanings for us than economic wellbeing. Ultimately it may ease environment in our country and also help evaporate misconceptions about Islam, which have been high under the influence of the west’s “war against Islam”. Muslim Brotherhood has emerged mature during the last six decades, is committed to democratic norms and has a balanced vision of Shari’ah and pluralism. During the last one year, it has proved that politically mature leadership of new Egypt has potential to deal with deep crises and conspiracies with tact and prudence. It has shown a quite different temperament from that which had come in power in Kabul a decade ago. Banners are same but manners different. Unfortunately they did what was not to be done and destroyed themselves and others. We can only hope that after Indonesia and Turkey, Egypt will become a model modern Islamic nation, InshaAllah.

[syyedagha@hotmail.com]



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