Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will visit Egypt soon to bolster defence cooperation between the two countries, Egyptian Ambassador to India Hatem Tageldin said on Tuesday.

The two nations, which enjoy a time-tested relationship, were keen to intensify cooperation in the defence field as well, he told reporters on the margins of a function at which an Egyptian company ‘KAPCI Coatings’ launched its operations in India.

Preliminary discussions about Nirmala Sitharaman ’s visit to Egypt had taken place in November last year when Egyptian Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi had visited India.

Tageldin said the two countries were considering joint ventures in defence production apart from training slots for each other’s defence personnel in premier institutions. There were also plans to start joint defence exercises between the two countries. ‘’India is a very important country for us…we propose to cooperate in defence, security, counter-terrorism and other such areas,’’ he added.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also expected to visit Egypt later this year. Modi, he said, had in principle accepted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s invitation to visit Cairo. Officials of the two countries were in touch in this regard, he added. Modi and the Egyptian President have already met on four occasions so far. ‘’We hope they will soon have their fifth meeting.’’ The Egyptian envoy said Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan would also be visiting Egypt soon.

On bilateral economic cooperation, he said the two countries had decided to give an impetus to trade and commercial links. Bilateral trade in 2017 was to the tune of $3.5 billion in 2017 which was expected to grow substantially in 2018. Indian companies had invested nearly $3.5 billion in Egypt while Egyptian companies have invested $150 million in India. Many Egyptian companies were keen to participate in India’s ‘’Skill India’’ and ‘’Make in India’’ programmes, he added.