India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor announced; PM stresses on respect for territorial integrity in connectivity projects

New Delhi: Initiative to consist of two separate corridors — East Corridor connecting India to West Asia/Middle East and Northern Corridor connecting West Asia or Middle East to Europe

BY | Saturday, 9 September, 2023

India along with the US and several major economies on Saturday announced an ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor with Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasising on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations while promoting connectivity initiatives.

The new economic corridor, which many see as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, was jointly announced by the leaders of the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The countries signed the Memorandum of Understanding to establish the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor which is expected to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.

In his remarks at the event, Modi also stressed on promoting financial viability rather than debt-burden as well as on following all environmental guidelines in connectivity projects and said India does not limit connectivity to regional borders as it believes that connectivity can play a key role in strengthening mutual trust.

The initiative will consist of two separate corridors — East Corridor connecting India to West Asia/Middle East and Northern Corridor connecting West Asia or Middle East to Europe.

It will include a rail line which upon completion will provide a reliable and cost effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement the existing multi-modal transport routes enhancing transshipment of goods and services between South East Asia through India to West Asia or Middle East Europe.

Along the railway route, participants intend to enable the laying of cable for electricity and digital connectivity, as well as pipe for clean hydrogen export.

This corridor will secure regional supply chains, increase trade accessibility, improve trade facilitation, and support an increased emphasis on environmental social, and government impacts.

The launch of the initiative was hailed as “historic” by leaders of all participating nations, including the co-chairs Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden.

Besides Modi and Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan participated in the event.

“I am happy to co-chair this event with my friend President Biden,” Prime Minister Modi said and added that an important and historic partnership had been achieved with this corrider.

He said that in the times to come, it will become an effective medium for economic integration of India, the Middle East and Europe.

“It will give a new sustainable direction to connectivity and development in the entire world,” the prime minister said.

At the launch, Modi also said strong connectivity and infrastructure are fundamental basis for the development of human civilisation and India has always laid strong emphasis on this in its development journey.

“We are laying a strong foundation for a developed India,” he said.

“Through PGII (Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment), we can play a key role in reducing the infrastructure gap in Global South countries,” Modi said.

“India does not limit connectivity into regional borders. It has been India’s priority to increase connectivity with all regions. We believe that connectivity between various countries is not only a source of increasing trade but also for strengthening mutual trust,” he said.

It is important to keep in mind certain aspects while promoting connectivity initiatives such as adhering to international norms and rules, he said.

Modi stressed on respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations while promoting such initiatives.

“With such a major step on connectivity, we are sowing the seeds for future growth,” he said.

Later, in a post on X, Modi said, “Charting a journey of shared aspirations and dreams, the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor promises to be a beacon of cooperation, innovation, and shared progress. As history unfolds, may this corridor be a testament to human endeavour and unity across continents.”

Modi and US President Joe Biden called for accelerating investments to scale high-quality infrastructure projects and the development of economic corridors through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII).

Biden said he was proud to announce that they have finalised a “historic agreement” for the new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

“As key part of this corridor, we are investing in ships and rails, that extends from India to Europe connected by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. It will make it far easier to trade. I want to thank sponsors and particularly Prime Minister Modi and (Saudi Crown Prince) Mohammed bin Salman,” he said.

Asserting that “this is a big deal”, Biden said the partnership was focused on building a sustainable, resilient infrastructure, making quality infrastructure investments, and creating a better future.

“We need to maximize the impacts of our investments. That’s why a few months ago, I announced that the United States will work with our partners to invest in economic corridors,” he said.

“That means we’re focusing on regional infrastructure projects that deliver results across multiple countries and multiple sectors,” he said.

“This is a game changing regional investment,” Biden said, adding that the US continues to make big investments in infrastructure around the world including in India.

The Saudi Crown Prince said he looks forward to the integration of the economic corridor.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the agreement on the corridor, saying this is nothing but historic. “It will be the most direct connection to date between India, the Arabian Gulf and Europe with a rail link that will make trade between India and Europe 40 per cent faster,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it is about having a first global green trade route as hydrogen is also part of this project.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, “We have to ensure that we implement it successfully and Germany is committed to contribute in that regard.”

The launch of the new corridor is a milestone in strengthening global integration, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said. She thanked Modi, Biden and all others who made this possible.

“This will scale up our economic growth. Italy is ready to play a decisive role in this initiative and we want to contribute in building bridges between the Mediterranean and Indo Pacific,” Meloni said.

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