India is drawing up a list of countries that it could potentially supply with modern missile systems as part of New Delhi’s bid to emerge as a major arms exporter, according to Indian press reports. The list includes Egypt.
On Jan. 7, the Times of India reported that New Delhi had made a list of friendly countries to which it could sell advanced Akash missile systems and BrahMos cruise missiles over the next few years.
Indian weapons researcher Amiet R. Kashyap told Al-Monitor that Egypt along with the Philippines, South Korea, Algeria, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Venezuela, and Bulgaria are interested in the missile systems.
Egypt has shown interest in BrahMos, a cruise missile developed by India and Russia. According to the Indian defense and space news site Livefist, an Egyptian delegation had visited the BrahMos pavilion at DefExpo India in Chennai back in 2018. Egypt’s interest in this type of missile first emerged in 2016, according to the Indian Financial Express.
The Egyptian delegation, which included former Minister of State for Military Production Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar and chief of the Armament Authority of the Egyptian Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Tareq Saad Zaghloul, met with Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the CEO of BrahMos Aerospace.
The BrahMos, which has a range of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and a speed of Mach 2.8, is a medium-range cruise missile that can be launched from a submarine, ship, aircraft or land at altitudes from 10 to 15,000 meters (33 to 50,000 feet), and can carry warheads of up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds).
BrahMos is a product of BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between Russia’s Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia and the Indian Ministry of Defense’s Defense Research Development Organization.
Kashyap noted that BrahMos Aerospace’s Indian and Russian teams have discussed potentially exporting these systems to some mutually agreed upon countries.
Under the Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 1998 between India and Russia, questions of exporting to a third country are to be decided jointly by the two countries.
Meanwhile, Egypt has been building up ties with both India and Russia.
Speaking about Egypt possibly acquiring the BrahMos systems, Kashyap said, “Maybe AERO India 2021, Asia’s largest aerospace exhibition [Feb. 3-5], will reveal something on that.” Egypt has not yet announced that any of its officials will be attending the exhibition.
“The Russian government, in 2018-2019, allowed BrahMos to export to a third country. The Indian Ministry of Defense also granted [BrahMos] permission to export some key [missile] systems. India is aiming to achieve a target of exporting defense equipment worth $5 billion by 2025, and systems like the BrahMos will play a role,” Kashyap added.
Each BrahMos unit costs some $2.75 million.
Neither the Egyptian military nor BrahMos Aerospace responded to requests for comment. However, retired Egyptian Maj. Gen. Adel al-Omda, an adviser to the Nasser Higher Military Academy and a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, told Al-Monitor that Egypt seeks to diversify its weapons sources.
Omda added that diversifying its weapons sources will shield Egypt from outside influence over its political decisions.
International human rights organizations are pressing the administration of US President Joe Biden to stop arms deals with Egypt. The United States has provided annual military aid worth $1.3 billion in the form of arms deals to Egypt since the Camp David Peace Agreement between Egypt and Israel was signed in 1978.
Omda pointed out, “Egypt is a sovereign state. Until it possesses advanced weapons and from various sources, it will not have the freedom to make political decisions based on parity, not subordination.”
Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to power in 2014, Egypt has focused on doubling its arms deals with several countries, most notably Russia, France, Germany and Italy.
Egypt’s arms imports tripled from 2010 to 2014 and 2015 to 2019, making it the world’s third largest arms importer, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in March 2020.
Omda noted that Egypt faces challenges that require increasing its military capacity, notably in the Suez Canal, the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean and politically unstable Libya.