By Sandeep Dikshit, Tribune News Service,
In a dramatic and not unexpected development, top world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and PM Narendra Modi on Saturday announced plans to build a mega rail and shipping corridor linking India with the Middle East and Europe in order to undercut China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the region.
“It will give new direction to connectivity and sustainable development of the entire world,” said PM Modi on the “India-Middle East-Europe Corridor”. The historic and first-of-its-kind initiative for cooperation on connectivity and infrastructure involves India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, France, Italy, Germany and the US. Israel and Jordan, though not mentioned, will also be part of the initiative. Significantly, the Adani Group controls a port in Israel and has plans to buy stakes in ports in Greece and Lithuania.
“In times to come, it will become an effective medium for economic integration of India, Middle East and Europe,” added PM Modi.
“This is a big deal,” said Biden at a joint press meet where, besides PM Modi, he was flanked among others by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida.
The corridor would boost trade, transport energy resources and improve digital connectivity, said US NSA Jake Sullivan. Von der Leyen also announced a “Trans-African Corridor” connecting the Angolan port of Lobito with landlocked areas in the mineral-rich countries of Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. Biden said this would be a “game-changing regional investment” and “both of these are huge, huge steps forward.” The leaders did not expound on how the projects would be bankrolled or what would be the timeline for completion.
The project is part of an initiative called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment.