NEW DELHI: “I am proud to announce we have finalised a historic agreement for a new India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor and as a key part of this corridor we are going to invest in ships, rail which extends from India all the way to Europe. The UAE, Jordan and Israel are building ports across two continents unlocking endless opportunities,” Joe Biden.
Just to understand what Biden was talking about, the new corridor will begin in Mumbai where ships with cargo bound for Europe will dock at Dubai and from there by rail through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel and then onward by ship to the Greek port of Piraeus
Sections of the rail network are getting ready or are up and running such as the 140-km rail link from Dubai to the Saudi border has been completed.
The Saudi north-south rail link which is over 1000-km long and reaches the Jordanian border is also ready.
What is required is the completion of the 300-km link from Jordan to the Israeli port of Haifa
It is estimated that this multimodal transport corridor will cut the current shipping time from Mumbai to Piraeus from 17 days to 10 days.
For this project to succeed, much will depend on the volumes it is able to generate. Indian diplomats believe that the FTA with the UAE, another one under negotiation with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the FTA being negotiated with the European Union and the incentives being given to make in India, could see the corridor take off.
There is the larger question whether this new corridor is intended to displace the Chinese BRI from the region
What happens to the International North South Transport Corridor which India has been working on for many years? That corridor also runs to Europe but since it is through Iran and Russia, both of which are under sanctions, progress has been slow.
On the face of it the new corridor looks a lot more promising but at a time when Europe’s economic situation is less than rosy because of the Ukraine war, could this end up another pipe dream?