Global leaders made a historic announcement on Saturday during the G20 summit in New Delhi, revealing a groundbreaking multinational rail and ports deal that will establish a vital link between the Middle East and South Asia.
This significant pact comes at a pivotal juncture as U.S. President Joe Biden endeavors to counter China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, positioning Washington as an alternative partner and investor for developing nations within the G20 alliance.
President Biden expressed his enthusiasm, deeming it a “real big deal” that will effectively connect ports across two continents, ultimately leading to a “more stable, more prosperous, and integrated Middle East.” During the announcement, he emphasized that it will unlock a plethora of opportunities in clean energy, electricity, and community connectivity.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the host of the summit, echoed the sentiment, stating, “Today, as we embark upon such a significant connectivity initiative, we are sowing the seeds for future generations to dream bigger.”
The deal is anticipated to be a game-changer for low and middle-income countries in the region, solidifying a pivotal role for the Middle East in global commerce. Jon Finer, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, emphasized this point to reporters at the G20 summit in New Delhi.
The primary objective of the agreement is to establish railway connections among Middle Eastern countries and link them to India via strategically positioned ports. This will facilitate the seamless flow of energy resources and trade from the Gulf to Europe, substantially reducing shipping times, costs, and fuel consumption.
The European Union, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S., alongside other G20 partners, have come together to sign a memorandum of understanding for the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, or IMEC. This visionary project will consist of two distinct corridors: an east corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf, and a northern corridor linking the Arabian Gulf to Europe.
In addition to the railway infrastructure, participants intend to install power and data lines, as well as pipelines for hydrogen derived from renewable energy sources, which will be employed in power generation.
French President Emmanuel Macron underlined the vast opportunities this pact presents for manufacturing, innovation, and people. He also emphasized the need for concrete results following this commitment.
While specific details regarding the value of the deal remain undisclosed, this initiative aligns with broader U.S. efforts for a comprehensive diplomatic accord in the Middle East, including the potential recognition of Israel by Saudi Arabia.
According to Finer, from the U.S. perspective, this deal is instrumental in “turning the temperature down across the region” and effectively addressing conflicts where they arise.