By Shehla Rahim
The recently concluded G20 summit hosted by India has once again brought the strategic partnership between the United States and India into the spotlight. This alliance aimed at countering China’s expanding influence in the region. A significant outcome of this summit is the unveiling of the “India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor” (IMEEEC), which seeks to enhance economic cooperation between India, the Middle East, and Europe. However, this initiative has sparked debate and raised suspicions, with many viewing it as a direct challenge to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The IMEEEC initiative is the latest in a series of attempts by the US and its allies to counter China’s BRI. Since 2018, the United States has launched various initiatives aimed at advancing its strategic and diplomatic interests by employing economic projects as a means to achieve those ends. The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) program was introduced in 2018, followed by the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative in 2021. While these initiatives were positioned as alternatives to the BRI, they have struggled to produce substantial results. The Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII), announced in 2022, aimed to invest $600 billion, with the US contributing one-third of the total. However, this initiative has faced challenges in securing adequate funding from its member countries.
India, in its bid to counter the BRI, collaborated with Japan in 2017 to introduce the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC). The AAGC was designed to promote growth through four main components: development and cooperation projects, quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity, capacity and skill enhancement, and people-to-people partnerships. Despite these promising components, the AAGC encountered implementation hurdles and did not deliver on its initial promises.
With previous counter-BRI initiatives facing limitations, the US and its Western allies have adopted a divide-and-rule strategy. They have selectively engaged a handful of wealthier countries from the Global South, convincing them to join the IMEEEC initiative. India was chosen as the host for the launch, with the objective of capturing Indian markets and establishing a corridor connecting India to Europe through the Middle East. This move is seen as an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in the Middle East and beyond.
Despite multiple attempts, initiatives launched by the US and its allies have encountered challenges that have hindered their progress. These initiatives have often been exclusive, targeting specific countries while excluding others, particularly China. Additionally, they have struggled to secure the necessary financial resources to meet their ambitious goals. These initiatives have primarily focused on advancing strategic interests by utilizing economic projects as instruments, limiting their effectiveness.
The IMEEEC initiative raises questions about its potential success, given the historical difficulties faced by similar endeavors. While Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to contribute financial resources, the scale of their contributions remains uncertain. Initiatives like B3W, which required trillions of dollars in investment, have struggled to secure adequate funding.
The pursuit of a new Cold War between the US and China carries significant implications for both the Middle East and India. The Middle East is already beset by numerous conflicts and challenges, and becoming a battleground for a new Cold War would further destabilize the region. Additionally, it could jeopardize recent agreements, such as the one between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
For India, the IMEEEC initiative presents a complex scenario. While it may gain access to a potentially lucrative consumer market, it risks becoming a frontline ally in the US-China rivalry. This could lead to heightened tensions and potentially even hot conflicts in the region, which would not be in India’s best interests.
The IMEEEC initiative and its implications highlight the intricate dynamics of global geopolitics and economic cooperation. While countries have the right to pursue their interests, it is essential to ensure that such pursuits do not lead to regional instability or threaten global peace. The success of IMEEEC remains uncertain, and its potential to counter China’s BRI is yet to be seen. As the world watches these developments unfold, it is crucial for all parties involved to consider the broader implications and work towards peaceful and cooperative solutions. Balancing economic cooperation with geopolitical considerations is the challenge that lies ahead, and it will require careful navigation and collaboration on a global scale.