New Delhi: Europe, India, the United States, and parts of the Middle East will seize upon Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence at the G20 summit to launch a rail and shipping corridor that could rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative as they attempt to diversify supply chains away from Beijing.
The project marks the first significant announcement of the G20 meeting in New Delhi, after fears the group of the 20 largest economies would fail to make any major inroads as member nations struggle to reach a consensus on a final communiqué.
The India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor, expected to be announced late on Saturday, will integrate railway lines and port connections from India to Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, enabling the transport of green hydrogen and the laying of undersea data cables across the region.
“This is nothing less than historic,” Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, which leads the EU, is expected to say on Saturday. “It will be the most direct connection to date between India, the Arabian Gulf and Europe.”
The details of the proposed rail route remain thin but von der Leyen claimed the connection would make trade between India and Europe 40 per cent faster. The infrastructure will also link countries in Europe and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, that have a long history of disputes over human rights and national security.
“This corridor is much more than just a railway or a cable,” von der Leyen will say. “It is a green and digital bridge across continents and civilisations.”
US officials have taken a leading role in the negotiations as the White House looks to take advantage of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s no-show at the G20 and the mounting debt linked to the Belt and Road Initiative. The deal also marks a return to Middle East diplomacy by Washington after Beijing brokered a détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran last year.
US deputy national security advisor Jon Finer told reporters the project had enormous potential and comes after “months of careful diplomacy, quiet, careful diplomacy, bilaterally and in multilateral settings”.