India, US plans ambitious Middle East project to counter China’s growing influence
India is preparing an enormous connectivity project that would connect New Delhi to the Middle East in an effort to challenge China’s influence in the Gulf.
According to media reports, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a meeting between National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and his US and UAE counterparts. The leaders talked on constructing a rail network to link the nations of the Middle East.
Through roads, railroads, and ports, the enormous connectivity project seeks to connect India and the Middle East. Over the past year, the I2U2 group meetings, which also include Israel, have produced the concept, according to Axios.
according to a report by ‘Foreign Policy’, given the significant commercial ties that the UAE and Israel share with China, the I2U2 group — a relatively new vehicle for US-India collaboration in the Middle East — was not intended to be a China-focused organisation.
Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t have official diplomatic ties, therefore the latter isn’t an official participant in the project, but its membership in I2U2 suggests it will play a part.
The connection initiative demonstrates how much India gains from the Abraham Accords, a deal made during the Trump administration that improved ties with Israel and some of its Arab neighbours. According to Foreign Policy, the agreement made it possible to form the I2U2 group, and discussions held there gave birth to the new effort.
The planned project sends a message that India and the US are prepared to extend their cooperation in opposing China outside of the Indo-Pacific region and into the Middle East.
It’s clear that the Joe Biden administration of the US intends to use the connectivity project as a means to balance China’s growing influence in the region.
Big boost for India
The connectivity initiative attempts to take advantage of India’s ability to supply infrastructure. Its past accomplishments include building Asia’s largest rail network and participating in international electricity-sharing agreements. Indian officials want to fight China’s BRI by expanding their infrastructure presence in the Middle East with the new programme.
One analysis claims that, in the best-case scenario, India could one day gain from land and sea trade routes that connect Israel and the United Arab Emirates with Greece’s Piraeus port and continue into Europe.
India wants to take part in a new multilateral initiative to counter China’s expanding Middle East influence, which is being fueled by investments in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a recent strategic deal with Iran. An important reconciliation agreement between Tehran and Riyadh was recently negotiated by Beijing, according to Foreign Policy.
Given its trading interests in the Middle East and the several million Indians who live there and bring money home via remittances, the Middle East is becoming an increasingly important region for India.
Additionally, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen recently paid a visit to New Delhi. He probably intended to meet with Indian interlocutors about the connectivity project, but he left early due to a crisis with Gaza.
According to Foreign Policy, Cohen stated in a statement issued prior to the visit that India can be crucial to enhancing regional stability in the Middle East.
Now that India holds the G-20 presidency, is experiencing rapid economic growth, and has surpassed China as the world’s most populous nation, it has the opportunity to expand its influence, commerce, and diplomacy outside the Indo-Pacific region. All of this can happen in a single year.
(With agency inputs)
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