Shipping from India to Europe via the Middle East could be in for the greatest shake-up for generations if president Joe Biden gets his way.
Headed to New Delhi for the G20 summit this weekend, the Biden administration has held discussions with India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to develop a new intermodal link from South Asia through the Middle East and into Europe with billions of dollars set to be spent on rail and ports in an alternative vision to Chinese president Xi Jinping’s 10-year-old Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious infrastructure project yoking China with countries around the world, which has run into difficulties of late.
The concept of the new transport corridor under discussion – and potentially set to be revealed this weekend – involves ship transit between India and Saudi Arabia, then trains through Saudi Arabia and the UAE, likely to Jordan, then ship transit to Turkey and onward from there by train, according to a report first published by Axios, an American news website, and since corroborated by multiple newswires. Negotiations are ongoing and there is speculation that Israel could be added to the transport corridor.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that he could not confirm the infrastructure deal would be announced at the G20. Still, he said the initiative is something “that we’ve invested effort into with our partners.”
“We believe that connectivity from India across the Middle East to Europe is incredibly important and would bring a significant number of economic benefits, as well as strategic benefits, to all of the countries involved,” he told reporters accompanying Biden aboard Air Force One.
Italy has made headlines in recent weeks by becoming one of the larger economies to step back from the embrace of China’s BRI; the nation’s defence minister describing the 2019 decision to join the modern Silk Road initiative as “atrocious”. Other nations in Asia and Africa are also having second thoughts on the advances made by Beijing.
President Xi is not expected to attend the G20 summit this weekend.