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Why India remains cautious

delhi Updated: Feb 01, 2011 00:06 IST
Jayanth Jacob

New Delhi's cautious approach to the unfolding developments in Egypt seem to be based on some key factors and calculations about which way events might turn.

An important aspect is that with the US and Europe coming out against possible human rights violations and the international media reporting almost every development, Mubarak cannot unleash much force, and the "democratic army" can't be pushed too far.

However, the popular movement could fizzle out because no unifying elements have emerged from the various players yet. So, Mubarak can come out unscathed, perhaps effecting some cosmetic changes.

There is however no denying that the pent-up anger against Mubarak regime stems from issues such as unemployment and is fed by the internet-savvy younger generation in the moderate Muslim country where women enjoy relative freedom.

Mubarak, 82, wants his son, Gamal Mubarak, 47, to succeed him. But Gamal, an investment banker, does not have the army's backing. An official said Mubarak appointing his confidant and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice-president could be his way of keeping the country's top post free for Gamal if the protests subside.

In such a scenario, however, Gamal would need the support of the army, which has had a decisive role in running the Egyptian state. Since the monarchy ended in 1952, all four Egyptian presidents came from the army. But the army, unlike the internal security forces, has a "community feeling," said an official, pointing to reports of some armymen seen supporting protesters.

Along with these factors is that of money. After the Camp David Accord of 1978, the US annual aid of $2 billion has its say on the country's affairs.

As for the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood, it is democratic - not jihadist - but too critical of the Americans, an official said.

Then there is the westernised Mohamed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, who enjoys the support of the intelligentsia.

But to what extent will the Muslim Brotherhood support him? These are some of the issues New Delhi is weighing before articulating a more categorical stand on Egypt.