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India's economic corridor to Europe via Saudi, UAE: a win for US, West Asia

In reflection of the emerging multipolar world, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi aim to transform their bilateral relations with Washington, Brussels, and Delhi into multidimensional partnerships by joining the IMEC, with energy serving as a core pillar but not the sole one.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman (L), India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) and US President Joe Biden attend a session as part of the G20 Leaders' Summit at the Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on Sept. 9, 2023.

During the G20 summit held in New Delhi on Saturday, a significant development unfolded as the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union introduced the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor, designed to stimulate economic development by fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf and Europe. 

The IMEC represents a multimode transit corridor spanning over 3,000 miles and it consists of two corridors. The eastern corridor links India to the Arabian Gulf, while the northern corridor connects the Arabian Gulf to Europe. Upon its completion, as outlined in the White House’s memorandum of understanding, this connectivity project will establish a dependable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network. It will complement existing maritime and road transport routes, facilitating the seamless movement of goods and services between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Europe.

Opportunity for Washington

In contrast to the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin from the G20 summit, the Biden administration swiftly claimed victories by positioning the corridor as an alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has placed a strong emphasis on the Middle East and Mediterranean states, such as Greece and Italy. However, it's important not to perceive the IMEC merely as a rival to the BRI. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two central pillars of the corridor, reject the idea of a bipolar world order that would compel them to choose between China and the United States or vice versa.

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