India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) – 11-09-2023

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    Syllabus: GS2/International Relations

    In News

    • During the 2023 G20 New Delhi summit, an MOU was unveiled for the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

    About

    • Participants: The MOU was unveiled by the Governments of India, the United States, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy; and the European Union. It is expected to attract additional Asian countries in future.
    • Objective: The IMEC is a planned economic corridor that aims to bolster economic development (manufacturing, food security, and supply chains) by fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.

    Components:

    • The project would involve the building of a railway line across the Arabian Peninsula through the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and develop shipping connectivity to India and Europe on either end of this corridor.
    • The corridor could be further developed to transport energy through pipelines and data through an optical fibre link.

    Significance

    • The project underlines several new geopolitical trends.
    • Alternative to BRI: The new corridor is being presented as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which seeks to establish trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa. Many view BRI as a tool for China to exert influence over developing nations, often resulting in debt traps.
    • Deepen strategic engagement with Arabian peninsula: The Indian Government, which had rapidly elevated political and strategic links with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the last few years, now has an opportunity to build enduring connectivity between India and Arabia.
    • Indo-US collaboration in the Middle East: This project has broken the myth that India and the United States might work together in the Indo-Pacific but not in the Middle East. Earlier, India and the U.S. joined hands with Israel and the UAE to set up the I2U2 forum to develop a few joint economic projects.
    • Stability in Middle East: According to U.S., this mega connectivity project could help “bring down’ the political temperature in the Arabian peninsula and act as an “Infrastructure for peace” in the Middle East by promoting intra-regional connectivity.
    • Integration of Europe: The corridor also marks the mobilisation of Europe into the infrastructure development in the region. Its support for the new corridor will make the EU a major stakeholder in integrating India with Arabia and Europa.
    • Engagement with Africa: The US and the EU have envisaged a plan to build a Trans-African corridor connecting Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia. Depending on the success of IMEC, India, which has stepped up its engagement with Africa, could also team up with the US and EU in Africa.
    • Bypassing Pakistan: IMEC breaks Pakistan’s veto over India’s overland connectivity to the West. Since the 1990s, India has sought various trans-regional connectivity projects with Pakistan. But Pakistan was adamant in its refusal to let India gain access to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia.

    Concluding Remarks

    • A lot would depend on the speed at which the new corridor is implemented and its ability to avoid the problem of sustainability — financial as well as ecological — associated with the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    Source: IE