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Can India’s IMEC Project Rival China?

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In a joint statement signed by India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, the European Union (EU), France, Italy, Germany, Germany and the United States of America (USA) during the G20 Summit on 9-10 September 2023, it was decided to implement the “India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)”.[1]

This project aims to facilitate India’s connection to Europe via the Arabian Peninsula. It is also stated that it is designed as a rival to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. If realised, it will significantly increase and accelerate cargo shipments between India and Europe. According to estimates, a 40% transport improvement is expected in the corridor where sea and rail connections will be used.

One of the reasons for the emergence of this corridor is the difficulties experienced in the trade corridors from Europe to China due to the Russian-Ukrainian War and the search for an alternative. Italy, for example, has long been under pressure from Europe and the US to leave China’s Belt and Road Initiative. During the G20 Summit, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni stated that the Belt and Road Initiative is not the only partnership in relations with China and that they want to develop cooperation in various fields.[2] In short, Italy states that it wants to develop co-operation with China at the level of strategic partnership instead of trade corridors. Italian Prime Minister Meloni’s recent statements are a sign that Europe has started to turn towards China’s alternatives in trade corridors. Europe’s IMEC partnership with India is another indication of this.

This project was originally announced in 2022 as the “Arab-Med Corridor” or “Indo-Arab-Mediterranean Corridor” between India, the UAE and Israel.[3] With the support of former US President Donald Trump, Israel’s relations with the Gulf States began to normalise and as a result, the idea of a corridor connecting the Mediterranean to India via the Gulf came to the agenda. India, Israel and the UAE have formed the main pillars of this corridor.

In 2020, following the normalisation agreement signed between Israel and the UAE (the Ibrahim Accords) [4] India put on its agenda to reach Europe via the Middle East and the Mediterranean. With India’s involvement in the so-called Israeli-Arab peace, this has come to be called the “Indo-Ibrahim Alliance”.[5]

The main reason for India and Israel to take such a step is to ensure energy security by pacifying the Strait of Hormuz [6] The starting point for this co-operation was the increased attacks on Iranian oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. The US encouraged India to co-operate with Israel. As a result, it was claimed that a new “QUAD 2.0” emerged in the Middle East between the USA-Israel-UAE-India. [7]

The “Arab-Med Corridor” and the “IMEC Project” are the most recent projects in the corridors to Europe in which India is emphasising. India competes with China in terms of co-operation with Israel. Because China also wants to open up to Greece and Europe via Israel. Countries such as Italy and the UK, which were involved in China’s Belt and Road Project 5-6 years ago, have now started to give up their co-operation with Beijing on trade corridors. Britain has declared that the “Golden Age” with China is over. [8] Italy is discussing withdrawal from China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Therefore, Europe is focusing on alternatives to the Russian route in its eastward trade. In this sense, the Arabian Peninsula comes to the fore.

Analysts see this partnership as part of US efforts to contain China’s regional influence. [9] According to the allegations, the US aims to integrate Europe, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific with this project.[10] In short, the US sees this as a strategic platform that can serve to encircle China in its neighbourhood in terms of political and security. India, on the other hand, sees this partnership more as an economic-commercial gain.

It is seen that a new alliance extending from Europe to India has emerged. It is estimated that the global balance of power will change with the IMEC Project. This project, supported by the US, may change the global balances to the detriment of China and in favour of India. It is known that Israel has strong ties with both India and China. As a result of the US pressure, Israel may have had to favour India.

Israel supports American alliances in the Indo-Pacific, especially through its relations with India. India, which wants to reach out to Europe by developing its economic and political relations with Israel, wishes to use Tel Aviv as a bridge in this context. As a result, while India shifts the balance of power in favour of the West by establishing relations with the US and Israel, it can strengthen the Eastern axis by getting closer to Russia and China.


[1] “G20 Unveils Plan for IMEC Trade Corridor to Rival China’s BRI”, The Load Star, https://theloadstar.com/g20-unveils-plan-for-imec-trade-corridor-to-rival-chinas-bri/, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[2] “Italy says strong partnership with China more important than staying in Belt and Road Initiative”, SCMP, https://www.scmp.com/video/china/3234082/italy-says-strong-partnership-china-more-important-staying-belt-and-road-initiative?module=visual_stories&pgtype=section, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[3] “An India-Europe Trade Corridor? The geoeconomics dimension of an emerging West Asia Quad”, Orfonline, https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/an-india-europe-trade-corridor/, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[4] ABD eski Başkanı Donald Trump’ın tabiridir. İsrail-Arap Barışını temsil ettiği için kullanılmıştır.

[5] “An Indo-Abrahamic alliance on the rise: How India, Israel, and The UAE Are Creating a New Transregional Order”, MEİ, https://www.mei.edu/publications/indo-abrahamic-alliance-rise-how-india-israel-and-uae-are-creating-new-transregional, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[6] “Israel Shares Its Connectivity Routes Allowing India to Bypass Strait of Hormuz”, Sputnik News, https://sputniknews.com/20191209/israel-shares-its-connectivity-routes-allowing-india-to-bypass-strait-of-hormuz-1077519931.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[7] @Resonant News, “India’s Mind-blowing strategy| QUAD 2.0 Indo Arab Mediterranean corridor”, YouTube, 4 Eylül 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4SaHgqoXz8, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[8] “Sunak Ends ‘Golden Era’ With China”, Euroactiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/sunak-ends-golden-era-with-china/, (Erişim Tarihi: 11.09.2023).

[9] “What is the I2U2?”, NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/14/world/middleeast/i2u2-india-israel-uae-us.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[10] Aynı yer.

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.