The big deal in Asia, Europe corridor through Gulf | Arabian Weekly

The big deal in Asia, Europe corridor through Gulf | Arabian Weekly

K Raveendran

Xi Jinping’s loss is Joe Biden’s and Narendra Modi’s gain.

The Chinese president’s absence at the Delhi G20 summit under the presidency of India was used by both to mount a serious challenge to Xi’s favourite Belt and Road initiative by creating a South Asia-Middle East-Europe economic corridor.

Modi announced the summit decision to establish a comprehensive rail and shipping connectivity network linking US, India, Saudi Arabia and Gulf and Arab states and European Union. President Joe Biden described the decision as a ‘really big deal’.

Biden will be going home with the satisfaction that he succeeded in pushing the idea of an India-Gulf axis against the growing Chinese clout in the region both politically and economically. Biden’s gambit is to counter China’s Belt and Road push on global infrastructure by pitching Washington as an alternative partner and investor for developing countries at the G20 grouping.

The deal seeks to link the Middle East by railway and connect them to India by port, helping the flow of energy and trade from the Gulf to Europe, by cutting shipping times, costs and fuel use. European Union, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. and other G20 partners signed the deal on the sidelines of the Delhi summit, which has been perceived as a new feather in the cap of Narendra Modi.

The new economic corridor envisages that cargo from India would reach the ports of Gulf countries and the Israeli Mediterranean ports and from there transported to Europe by rail.  Already a trans-Gulf rail network is under development, while rail and road networks between the Israeli and the Arabian peninsular ports with links to Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Sudan and Libya are progressing.

The new arrangement serves Joe Biden very well as he has been trying to bring rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia, both staunch supporters of the United States, together on the same page.

Modi and his ruling party are hoping to cash in the G20 euphoria in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, where they are facing a serious challenge from the opposition parties which have come together on a common platform under the name INDIA bloc.

It is a big achievement for Modi that the summit has managed to adopt a resolution that navigates the vexed Ukraine issue without causing much damage to the camp supporting Russia, India being a major player there, and the western nations desperate to get Putin’s scalp.

The new Asia-Europe economic corridor is in a way a revival of a train route that extended from Paris in western Europe to Istanbul, the junction between Asia and Europe. It was used to transport raw materials to Europe and industrial products in the reverse direction. Cargoes and people from Morocco, Egypt and Israel reached Beirut and Tripoli by ship enroute western Europe via Aleppo and Istanbul.

The revival of the old route was first mooted at the recently formed I2U2 forum of India, Israel, US and the UAE. The US quickly realised its potential to bring arch rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia, which Joe Biden has taken to the next level at the Delhi G20 summit, pledging American investment for the development of the new economic corridor.

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