After Amitabh Bachchan, the Green Revolution in India is the focus of Egypt’s attention.
It is a measure of how completely out of sync Egypt has been with India that the 1970s phenomenon that transformed India into a country that could grow enough food to feed its people, has become a point of interest today. “We want to know how India managed to grow its own food,” said Hisham Hamdi, deputy assistant foreign minister.
The Egyptian concern is immediate. There have been food riots recently, and even a few fatalities, when people had to be turned away from bakeries for lack of bread. The government had to call in the army to quell the riots.
Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, annually importing around seven million tonnes, none of it from India. International prices of foodgrain having risen drastically, the government was forced to double the price of a loaf of local bread (shaped like a large tandoori roti) from 25 piastres to 50 piastres (100 piastre is one Egyptian pound, equivalent to around eight rupees.)
“Because of massive subsidies and a poor public distribution system, black marketing of flour is rampant,” a senior Indian diplomat said. “The corruption is what led to rioting, and not lack of supplies.”
The Nehru-Nasser (Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser) era in relations that led to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement is seen as the golden age and officials acknowledge bilateral ties took a downturn once the Cold War ended.
Officials in Cairo say relations with New Delhi nosedived when India launched diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Relations are, however, on the mend.