One of the key highlights of the recently concluded G20 summit, 2023 was the launch of the corridor facilitating economic development by fostering a railway and shipping route connecting Asia and Europe via the Gulf countries, formally named as India-Middle East-Europe Corridor(IMEC).
What is IMEC?
IMEC is an important project focused on creating an advanced logistic infrastructure and enhancing connectivity links between India, the Middle East, and Europe. The project aims to build railway lines, create shipping routes and other key infrastructure components, to facilitate international trade and ties.
India, the USA, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union are the member countries of this initiative. The leaders of the member countries have signed a Memorandum of understanding(MoU) to establish IMEC.
The IMEC project is divided into two separate corridors, the eastern corridor connecting India and the Gulf, and the northern corridor connecting the Gulf to Europe. According to the MoU, IMEC is “expected to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.”
It was highlighted by the leaders that this project will encompass energy pipelines, high-speed data connections, shipping lines, and rail connectivity.
IMEC is considered the most ambitious project under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment(PGII), the US-led West’s response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
IMEC’s Geopolitical Significance
IMEC is crucial from a geopolitical standpoint, as well as from the infrastructure and connectivity angles. The project will supplement the current road and sea infrastructure, facilitating trade and service mobility “to transit to, from, and between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Europe.”
The need of the hour is to ensure regional supply chains that are trustworthy and safe which will improve trade accessibility and trade facilitation.
The countries participating in the project have a positive outlook for increasing efficiencies, cost reduction, strengthening of economic ties, employment generation and integration of economies.
The project was launched as a potent alternative to China’s BRI, however, the latter initiative is significantly larger in scope and scale. BRI has it’s reach over 150 countries and 30 International organisations have partnerships in BRI. Though BRI has many promoters, its reputation is washing away due to its expansionary policies. Italy has announced to pull-out of BRI recently for the same reason.
It is challenging for a single nation to accomplish the economic and strategic outreach China has achieved through BRI. However, it looks that by providing a strong alternative to the poor world, countries like India, the United States, and many other technologically and financially advanced nations may together thwart China’s efforts. The IMEC partner nations seem to have all the necessary components to worry Beijing.
The European Union also unveiled its plans for a “Trans-African Corridor,” a transportation system connecting Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the G-20 conference along with IMEC. In the news announcement, it was said that the Trans-African Corridor represented “a powerful evolution” of the PGII.
Additionally, the project will deescalate the tension and restore regular relations between Israel and the Gulf states and further reduce the intensity of the turbulence and unease restoring greater and more extensive connection in the area. It will help in normalising the diplomatic relations among the neighbouring countries.
India and IMEC
The objective for India is undoubtedly to enhance economic growth by promoting trade across diverse markets.
The IMEC is of immense significance to India.
- The IMEC will help India overcome the obstacle of restricted overland access to West Asia imposed by Pakistan.
- It will Strengthen connectivity with the Arabian countries and promote regional ties.
- By having access to alternate routes, the dependence on Iran’s Chabahar Port will be reduced.
- The initiative has the potential to improve the trade between India and Europe by 40%.
- An opportunity to join the Trans-African Corridor, a joint initiative of the US and EU connecting Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia.