India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor: new US-backed trade route to rival China’s Belt and Road

India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor: new US-backed trade route to rival China’s Belt and Road

The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), officially launched at the G20 summit in India, is seen by some analysts as a direct challenge to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure project launched a decade ago with the aim of connecting China to the rest of the world.

The launch of the new trade route connecting India to the Middle East and Europe through railways and ports was announced on Saturday (9 September) by US President Joe Biden, along with leaders of India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Biden’s project, which would usher in a “new era of connectivity,” also includes the European Union, France, Italy and Germany. It is comprised of two separate routes – an east corridor linking India to the Gulf Arab states and a northern corridor connecting the Gulf states to Europe.

Some analysts see the ambitious plan as demonstrating that Washington can count on its Middle East allies in its efforts to contain China’s rise. In the emerging multipolar world, the project shows that Gulf states try to find a balance between traditional allies like the US and emerging partners like China.
For Saudi Arabia and the UAE, however, the India-Middle East-Europe corridor is not necessarily a replacement to the BRI, experts say. The IMEC is “a manifestation of the global connectivity agenda the UAE and the region (are) perusing,” Mohammed Baharoon, director general of the Dubai Public Policy Research Center, said. “It will complement, more than compete with China’s BRI since both of them are attempts to facilitate the movement of goods (including energy) money, people and data,” he said.

The Middle East corridor consists of two separate corridors. The East Corridor will link the Indian port of Mundra on the west coast to Fujairah port and then using the railroad via Saudi Arabia and Jordan transport goods through standardized containers to the Israeli port of Haifa. The west corridor will be from Haifa, from where the Indian goods will reach various ports like Marseille in France and other ports in Italy and Greece.

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