India-West Asia-Europe corridor deal offers alternative to China’s BRI – ET Infra

In a multi-continental effort that could provide a credible alternative to China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has pushed many countries into a debt trap besides losing control over their assets, leaders of India-US-Saudi Arabia-UAE-Europe-Japan on Saturday announced a mega joint infrastructure deal to connect Asia with Europe via ports and railroad.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the project said an India-West Asia-Europe connectivity corridor for economic integration would be launched soon. Modi made the announcement flanked by US President US Biden, Saudi Arabia Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, President of UAE, EU and key European leaders on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

“This corridor will show a sustainable way to the whole world,” the Prime Minister said.

While the US President described it as a game-changer, Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Union said, “It will be the most direct connection between India, Middle East. and Europe. This will make travel 40% faster.”

The deal will seek to connect the two key Gulf states via a network of railway lines, and further to India via shipping lanes in what would rival BRI in the region. While China was not named by any of the leaders the reference was clear as key West Asian powers seek to hedge against Beijing. It is no secrthat BRI and CPEC (that passes through PoK) have pushed countries into debt trap and have caused strategic challenges. India has opposed BRI ever since it was launched with Europe joining in since Covid disrupted trust and supply chains originating from China.

Intense negotiations were held among the four countries and other stakeholders since early this week to seal the deal, a person in the know said, adding: “It will be a gamechanger.” The negotiations were led by Deputy NSA Vikram Misri.

Amid the chill in Saudi-US ties under the Biden administration and Saudi Crown Prince’s goal to put in place a multipolar policy approach, China has made inroads in the Gulf. Last month Saudi Arabia, which has ushered unprecedented reforms, joined BRICS as a new member. Saudi and Russia have also been engaged in trade in recent times via the International North South Transport Corridor in the backdrop of improved relations between Iran and Riyadh.

The plan was initiated during Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to Saudi in May. This infrastructure deal could reduce shipping times, cost, the use of diesel and make trade faster and cheaper between India and Mediterranean. India is steadily increasing its presence in the Mediterranean via Greece and Italy.

  • Published On Sep 10, 2023 at 12:02 PM IST

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