Above Photo: US President Joe Biden arrives in New Delhi for the G20 summit. CNN.
President Biden made the announcement at the G20 summit.
US President Joe Biden announced a multinational rail and ports deal linking Europe, West Asia, and South Asia on 9 September at a gathering on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
The deal, known as the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), comes as the White House seeks to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Russia and Iran’s North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) by pitching Washington as an alternative partner and investor for developing countries.
A memorandum of understanding for the deal was signed by the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the US, and other G20 partners.
Biden said it was a “real big deal” that would connect ports and expand trade across two continents and lead to a “more stable, more prosperous and integrated [West Asia].”
He said the deal would unlock “endless opportunities” for clean energy, clean electricity, and laying cable to connect countries in the region.
It aims to cut shipping times, costs, and fuel use by linking West Asian countries by railway and connecting them to India by port.
The G20 brings together leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping declined to attend the summit this year amid tensions due to the war in Ukraine.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hosted the gathering, said: “Today, as we embark upon such a big connectivity initiative, we are sowing the seeds for future generations to dream bigger.”
“Linking these key regions, we think, is a huge opportunity,” Jon Finer, the US deputy national security adviser, told reporters. No details of the value of the deal were available.
IMEC will help “turn the temperature down across the region” and “address a conflict where we see it,” Finer added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement late Saturday night that Israel “will be a central junction in this economic corridor,” which will link Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The move comes amid US efforts to convince Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords.
One economic benefit of normalization would be the creation of a rail link between the UAE and Israel via Saudi Arabia, which was also the subject of discussion at the G20 summit.
Last year, geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar noted that the “War of Economic Corridors” is now proceeding full speed ahead, with the game-changing first cargo flow of goods from Russia to India via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) already in effect.
On 17 May, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement to create the Rasht-Astara railway, which is expected to boost the INSTC by connecting South Asia to northern Europe and potentially ‘rivaling’ the Suez Canal.
“Once this railway is put into operation, Iran’s railroad will be connected to Russia and then to Europe,” Jahanbani continued, referring to the agreement as “a turning point” for the INSTC.