Explained: Making of the Arab-Mediterranean corridor and the big counter to China’s BRI

Will India lay blueprint for a new trade dynamic in the region?

Narendra Modi and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) welcomes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia upon his arrival at Bharat Mandapam convention centre for the G20 Summit in New Delhi | AP

Grand plans for an Arab-Mediterranean corridor is in the works with the United States backing the building of a shipping and rail transportation corridor to establish a trade route connecting Europe’s shores to the Middle East. From cooperation in the skies (defence cooperation) to the seas, the Indo-US ties are literally becoming the bedrock for a new dynamic in the region, that can counter China’s growing ambitions—both strategic and economic—with its string of pearls strategy.

The big Saudi push at the G20 can be one of the key takeaways from the mega summit being hosted by New Delhi as government sources said a proposed Memorandum of Understanding has been in the works for sometime between the US, India, Saudi Arabia, UAE and joined by the EU. The aim is to cut shipping time from Indian ports to Gulf countries, using rail connectivity for passing through Saudi Arabia and reaching Israel, onwards to Europe without having to go around the Arab peninsula. The I2U2 forum (India, US, UAE, Israel) has been spearheading this effort, taking into consideration India’s maritime capabilities and the need to harness the potential of multilateral cooperation. 

 A game changer for the region, the proposed corridor is high on the priority list of both India and the United States, not only because US President Joe Biden is eyeing at a normalisation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel in run-up to campaign for polls in 2024, or Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working out the blueprint for a new trade dynamic in the region, but also as a key strategic move to counter China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative that became a strong symbol of its rise as a global power over the last decade. China’s ambitions to reduce trade barriers and build better infrastructure through the BRI has been a work in progress, that has kept both India and the US keenly glued on its investments and foreign policy initiatives, particularly reaching out to the Middle East. 

 For New Delhi, the proposed shipping and rail corridor to connect the Middle East also got a fillip after the Haifa port acquisition by Adani Group; the opening of the route to the Mediterranean through Haifa is being seen as a strategic move to enter the European market in a much faster way.

This effort is now expected to enter the second stage with rail links and shipping routes coming through with the proposed transit corridor. Government sources said the move is also likely to have a positive impact on the pending free trade agreements with the EU, as conversations on the sidelines of the G20 are expected to discuss ways to facilitate the long pending FTA between India and the EU. 


📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines