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'India needn't worry about Egypt's power-change'

Last updated on: February 09, 2011 17:06 IST

Indian Ambassador to Egypt Chinmaya Gharekhan, a former special envoy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for West Asia, and the West Asia peace process, and a former permanent representative of India to the United Nations, tells Sheela Bhatt that India should welcome the changes taking place in Egypt and it should not be doubting Muslim Brotherhood at all.

Gharekhan, who has extensive experience of the Israel-Palestine issue and have met leaders of all shades of the Palestine movement when he was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's envoy for West Asia, told that although the Indian government's reaction was little late in declaring support to the Egyptian people, he is now satisfied with India's stand.

"India's stand is a good one. I think, there was some delay in coming out with position clearly, but after a few days foreign minister (S M Krishna) came out categorically that India is on the side of the people of Egypt and the aspirations of the protestors must be satisfied," Gharekhan noted.

"There must not be any use of force. I am not in the government and not speaking on it's behalf but I am quite satisfied with government's position," he added.

Gharekhan completely dismissed conspiracy theories that 'Western forces or may be Israel-backed Egyptian military was behind the current upheaval at Tahrir Sqare in Cairo.'

Gharekhan said, "It's a spontaneous movement of the Egyptian people. There is no external involvement behind it. It's a genuine people's revolution. No need to look at any hidden hand anywhere in this movement."

He insisted that changes are, to an extent, irreversible.

"Whatever happens, one thing is for sure that at the end of it there will be more democracy in Egypt. People will be empowered; they will have more say in running the affairs of the country. There will be fresh elections for sure. They will be monitored by international observers. The powers of president -- whoever will it be, he won't be certainly Hosni Mubarak -- will be more constitutional and rule-based and less arbitrary."

When asked about the larger issue of Israel-Palestine conflict, he said, "The next government in Egypt will be certainly more supportive of Palestinian cause and Palestine people. The so-called Arab street, as we know, is very supportive of the Palestine cause. Palestine people were unhappy with Mubarak's stand on the issue. To that extent Israel is worried and they have the right to worry about the next government."

From Indian foreign policy perspective, he said that India need not worry if Egypt is going out of the American orbit.

"Let America worry about it. Why should we worry?"

Gharekhan stated that Indians must support the people's genuine movement and there is no need to worry about Indo-Israel defence ties in changing scenario where Israel is about to lose a friendly setup in Cairo.

"Egypt is, perhaps, the most important Arab country in the region. It's in our interest and Egypt's interests to have good bilateral relations. It will continue even if Mubarak is not at the head of government," Gharekhan said.

He further argued, "I am not worried. Let Israel stew in its juice. What's happening in Egypt has nothing to do with our relations with Israel. The two has nothing in common. Israel has commercial interests in India, nothing else. It's selling weapons, not gifting us any weapons. You are buying them at high price. It's in their jolly-well interest to keep selling arms to us. We can have our own foreign policy."

While talking about fears of Islamisation of Arab world, he said let the Arab world worry about it.

He explained that Indian democracy is strong and Islamisation of the Middle East, if at all it happens, is unlikely to impact India.

"There should be no fear in Indian about the Muslim Brotherhood. Certainly not. We are democratic and our own Muslim brothers and sisters are fully integrated in the society. So we, the democratic Indians, have nothing to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Cairo. Let the Arab leadership worry about them. Why should we worry about it?"

When asked his take on stand of countries like Russia and China who are supporting Mubarak's regime, Gharekhan said, "China is a totalitarian country, obviously, they will not want people's movement to succeed anywhere. They haven't forgotten what happened at Tiananmen Square 22 years ago. We can't expect China to support it. It will support any authoritarian regime as Mubarak was. China's position is understandable."

Sheela Bhatt