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India-Middle East-Europe transport link announced

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands at the G20 summit in New Delhi Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands at the G20 summit in New Delhi
  • Imec deal to integrate rail and ports
  • Route from India to Europe through Gulf
  • Biden hails ‘endless opportunities’

World leaders have announced a shipping and rail transportation corridor linking countries across the Middle East, South Asia and Europe at the G20 summit in New Dehli, India, on Saturday.

The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (Imec) aims to integrate railway routes and link ports along a route spanning from India to Europe, through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel.

An agreement on Imec was signed by India, the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the European Union, Italy, France and Germany, India’s external affairs ministry confirmed in a statement.

“Strong connectivity and infrastructure are the base of the development of humanity. India has prioritised on this in its developmental journey,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment conference with G20 leaders.

The pact proposes two separate corridors: one in the east connecting India to the Gulf and a northern corridor connecting the Arabian Gulf with Europe.

“The cross-border ship-to-rail transit corridors will reduce shipping costs across the network and facilitate trade in goods and services to, from, and between the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India and Europe,” UAE state-run news agency Wam reported.

The value of the proposed plan was not disclosed.

US President Joe Biden said it was a “real big deal” that would bridge ports across two continents and lead to a “more stable, more prosperous and integrated Middle East”.

He added that the pact would unlock “endless opportunities” for clean energy, clean electricity and laying cables to connect communities.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the pact offers opportunities for manufacturing, innovation and people.

“But our intention is to make it real and to be sure that after this commitment, we have concrete results,” he said.

The rail link will make trade between India and Europe nearly 40 percent faster, said European Commission president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen.

The initiative will focus on advancing energy infrastructure, helping with the production and transportation of environmentally-friendly green hydrogen to all participating nations.

As part of the plan, there is also a provision for improving telecommunications and data connectivity by deploying an undersea cable connecting the entire region.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan said he hoped the ports and rail corridor project would work in coordination with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI was launched by Chinese president Xi Jinping in October 2013 as a global infrastructure development strategy to invest in more than 150 countries and international organisations across Asia, Africa and Latin America. 

In the Middle East, China has established full strategic partnerships with Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran.

Of 45 countries receiving Chinese financing and investment in the first six months of 2023, Saudi Arabia had the highest construction volume at $3.8 billion, followed by Tanzania with $2.8 billion and the UAE at $1.2 billion, according to a report by the Green Finance & Development Center at Fudan University in Shanghai.