Opinion

The new route of the Indies

PHOTO/PIXABAY - Bandera de la India
photo_camera PHOTO/PIXABAY - Flag of India

The new trade route being sponsored by a group of countries led by the US will connect India with the Middle East and Europe.

The author explains the IMEC project to create a trade belt between India and Europe to compete with the new Silk Road that China has been developing for a decade. 

A new initiative to develop a rail and maritime corridor connecting India to Europe via the East was launched at the G20 summit on 9 September. This multinational project is supported by Germany, Saudi Arabia, the US, the United Arab Emirates, France, India, Italy and the European Union. The White House is the prime mover behind the initiative and it is surely a challenge to China's economic ambitions and will counterbalance its growing influence in the Middle East and Europe.  

The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) is not a novel idea. Two thousand years ago, via this route, Indian traders supplied Rome with over a billion sesterces worth of goods annually, more than was needed to sustain the Empire. 

The plan appears to rival China's massive Belt and New Silk Road infrastructure initiative to connect Asia, Africa and Europe, announced in 2013. The Biden administration intends to complete its diplomatic push in the Middle East with a grand bargain with Saudi Arabia that includes the normalisation of relations between the kingdom and Israel to help make the Middle East a more prosperous, stable and integrated region. 

But IMEC is significant from an infrastructure and connectivity perspective, in addition to the geopolitical angle. The project will consist of two separate corridors: the eastern corridor, connecting India to the Arabian Gulf, and the northern corridor, connecting the Gulf to Europe.  

Along the rail route, cables will be laid for electricity, high-speed data, and energy pipelines, especially clean hydrogen. It will complement and reinforce existing maritime and road routes and regional supply chains, seeking to increase efficiency, generate jobs, reduce emissions and improve trade. 

Properly executed, it can help unite the countries of the area and establish the region as a hub of economic activity rather than one of conflict and permanent crisis, as it is today. 

In geopolitical terms, IMEC is touted as a counterweight to China's Silk Road, although the latter's scale and scope has been much greater since its launch. Nevertheless, it is a viable alternative and its proponents may cause some concern in Beijing. 

Improving connectivity between all regions must be a priority because it is not only a means to increase global trade, but also to build mutual trust. Across the world, more needs to be done to unlock the potential of emerging economies and ensure equitable economic opportunities. The exploration and expansion of trade routes and networks can contribute to economic growth, to the development of more sustainable and efficient solutions.