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India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor – A mighty blow to China’s Belt & Road Initiative?

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Indian PM Modi on Saturday announced the launch of the India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor. The project includes India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, France, Italy, Germany and the US.

“Today we all have reached an important and historic partnership. In the coming times, it will be a major medium of economic integration between India, West Asia and Europe,” he said. The corridor will give a new direction to connectivity and sustainable development of entire world, said PM Modi.

Meanwhile, US President Biden hailed it as “a big deal”, saying one is going to hear the phrase economic corridor more often in the coming decade.

The India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) is a transnational railway and shipping route, which is one of its kind of project, it spread across two continents. It will stimulate the economic development via enhanced connectivity and economic integration between India, Middle East, and European countries.

The IMEC will include two separate corridors — the east corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf and the northern corridor connecting the Arabian Gulf to Europe.

It will include railway projects, which will provide a cost-effective and reliable cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement existing road transport and maritime routes, which will enable goods and services to transit between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Europe.

Objective of this corridor?

The objectives for IMEC include generating economic growth while incentivizing new investments in the region. It aims to connect the two continents (Asia and Europe) with commercial hubs and facilitate development and export of clean energy, support existing trade and manufacturing synergies and strengthen food security and supply chains.

The project will also help link energy grids and telecommunication lines through undersea cables to expand access to electricity, Internet, etc.

How IMEC is a mighty blow to China’s BRI?

The IMEC will be a modern incarnation of ancient routes such as Silk Route. It promises not only to revolutionize commerce between its member states, but also to foster deeper cultural and diplomatic ties. It will not only serve diverse regions, but also pave the way for a new era of collaboration, mutual respect, and shared growth, much as the Silk Roads once did for the ancient world.

The IMEC aims to be a game-changer. It promises to revolutionize how goods, and by extension, influence, and power, flow between these major world regions. For India, it’s a strategic move to lessen dependency on traditional trade partners, while opening up a swathe of opportunities in markets ranging from energy to technology.

For the Middle East, it’s an alternative to a sole reliance on Western partnerships, creating a more balanced portfolio of alliances. For Europe, it’s an opportunity to diversify trade routes while enhancing relations with a democratic counterbalance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In terms of objectives, both the OBOR and IMEC are similar. However, China’s New Silk Route is larger in terms of scale. Announced in 2013, China has signed BRI cooperation documents with more than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations, galvanizing nearly $1 trillion and creating over 3,000 projects. Even some of the IMEC MoU signatories are also part of BRI, such as Italy, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Though Italy has now decided to pull out of it.

China’s BRI or One Belt One Road (OBOR) project has received criticism for creating “debt traps” for participating nations and being a tool for geopolitical influence rather than mutual benefit. While numerous nations have expressed interest in IMEC, Italy’s fervent support has particularly captured international attention.

Some observers might hastily label this as yet another routine diplomatic endeavor. Delving deeper into Italy’s geopolitical inclinations and its current economic endeavors, there seems to be a larger narrative unfolding.

Italy was the only G7 nation that had signed up for China’s BRI around 2004, though that decision was heavily criticized by the opposition. Fast forward to today, the situation has been changed, Italy has shown utmost interest in the IMEC, juxtaposed with rumors of its potential distancing from the BRI, is turning heads.

UAE recognizes PoK as part of India in G20 video in a major snub to Pakistan

Days after the recently concluded multi-nation summit in New Delhi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Deputy Prime Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan shared a video from G20, showcasing a trade corridor that recognised Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) as an integral part of India.

The location of PoK on the map showed it was an essential part of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, indicating a diplomatic attempt to support India’s territorial integrity.  

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