Connectivity Corridors are frequently viewed as tools for projecting geopolitical influence by facilitating economic growth, cultivating partnerships, building leverage, and strategically positioning sponsoring states in key regions. Despite the continuing illusions of the debt trap by Western media, Since the launch of BRI and the maritime silk route, a trend has emerged between global powers to rival Chinese initiatives with similar projects. The B3W was one such mirage of this growing trend. Recently, at the G-20 summit in India, the governments of India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, EU, and the USA signed an MOU laying the groundwork for the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). The IMEC is positioned to enhance connectivity, economic integration, and development between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.

The corridor is built on an Eastern and Western Corridor with a wide network of Railway lines, ports, gas pipelines, digital connectivity infrastructure, and value chains spanning from Mumbai to the Greek Port of Piraeus.

Once completed, the project bypassing the Suez Canal is believed to boost trade and connectivity and support emphasis on environmental considerations by cutting transportation costs, reducing greenhouse emissions, and promoting integration between Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The corridor viewed as an attempt to rival BRI is yet another empty shell project. The ambitions associated with this project to serve as a counter for BRI are largely overblown for a variety of reasons. The first issue is that the Corridor is a logistical nightmare. Bypassing the Suez Canal desperately trying to avoid dependency on a vital chokepoint is a distant shot in the dark. Goods will be loaded onto a ship from Mumbai and transported to the UAE, only to be unloaded and reloaded on rail traveling to Haifa before being reloaded and shipped toward the Greek port of Piraeus. Second, the infrastructure required to be in place for the establishment of the corridor is held by Chinese enterprises. In the case of the construction of new infrastructure, it has to be integrated into the infrastructure constructed as part of BRI. China’s Shanghai International Port Group and China COSCO Shipping, for example, own both vital ports of Haifa and Piraeus. Chinese corporations are also involved in ports in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Chinese companies are responsible for constructing Saudi land bridge projects and railway lines across the UAE. Also, not to mention the involvement of Chinese firms in building tech infrastructure and industrial zones in Saudi Arabia. Looking at this, it is evident that the success of this corridor is dependent on integration within the framework of BRI rather than countering it. The corridor also excludes major regional actors, which can pose challenges for the corridors. The announcement of the corridor has already ruffled feathers in Ankara, with President Recep Tayib Erdogan saying, “There would be no corridor without Turkey” while talking to the media and proposing a competing scheme in response to IMEC connecting the Gulf through Iraq with the help of Qatar.

Moreover, there is a divergence between how the other member states view the establishment of a corridor. This leaves the question of whether the member states could come to direct their efforts toward the project’s completion. This corridor is another instance of a paradigm change for India due to New Delhi’s fears of being encircled by the Chinese-led BRI.

This is not the first time India has tried to rival BRI. New Delhi made similar attempts by introducing the north-south corridor, neighborhood first, Asia-Africa growth corridor, and Japan.

For America and Europe, the corridor is more about accelerating ongoing efforts for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, casting doubts on whether the EU and the United States will make any significant investments. Not to mention the B3W still very much remains a pipe dream. For the Gulf countries, the project is less about rivaling BRI and more about diversifying trade and economies. Furthermore, the Gulf nations regard IMEC as promoting their vision of a multipolar world.

IMEC presents a noteworthy endeavor to enhance connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. However, its challenges and limitations cast a shadow over its ability to rival BRI. The logistical complexities in bypassing the Suez Canal and the presence of Chinese infrastructure in planned routes indicate that if this project is ever materialized, it may become part of BRI rather than bypassing it. Last, the varying motivations and priorities raise questions about the cohesion and commitment the initiative demands for its ultimate success. While it is a significant development, it remains to be seen if IMEC can live up to its expectations.


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