The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) was formed on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit 2023. IMEC was formed and proposed by the US in, the aftermath, of the expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and BRICS. Recently, in 2023, the MENA (Middle East-North African) nations joined BRICS and SCO. Since 2013, China and the US have indulged in a geostrategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, formerly Asia-Pacific. Many scholars and think tanks called this geostrategic competition a “New Cold War” between the United States and China. Thus,
IMEC is a geostrategic move by the United States to counter China’s increasing geopolitical clout in a region.
The US, India, UAE, KSA, Israel, European Union, Italy, France, and Germany signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for establishing an India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor. This economic corridor has great geostrategic implications for the shifting geopolitics of the Middle East and Europe. IMEC has road and maritime routes that consist of two corridors; the Eastern Corridor and the Northern Corridor. Eastern Corridor connects India with Middle Eastern countries through the Indian Ocean (sea route) such as with UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
Jordan is also a part of the Eastern Corridor. Northern Corridor connects Israel with Europe. It means that economically and strategically IMEC directly connects India and the Middle East to Europe. IMEC constitutes 50% of the world’s economy. IMEC reflects the ongoing “New Cold War” between China and the US. It is an alternative to BRI which is initiated by the US, to maintain its influence on the Middle East. Hence, IMEC is a geostrategic challenge for China’s BRI in a region.
Saudi Arabia joined IMEC following its Vision 2030 to advance and diversify its economy away from its oil industry. China is deepening its relations with the Arab Countries to expand its BRI in a region. Through this newly proposed economic corridor, the US is trying to rekindle its relations with indignant Arab Countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For the past two years, Saudi-US relations have faced many ups and downs. In 2020, the United States withdrew its troops from Syria and Yemen and stopped supporting Saudis in its proxy wars with Iran in a region.
Furthermore, the Biden Administration in 2021 stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia and banned visas for Saudis. In retaliation, KSA is moving closer to Russia and China. In late 2021, at the meeting of OPEC+, KSA along with Russia cut oil production by one million barrels per day for the USA. This causes a tension between the Saudi Arabia and the US. As the United States realizes that it losing its influence over the Middle East and Russia and China are increasing their influence and presence in a region, the US adopts some counter strategies such as I2U2 and IMEC in the Middle East.
In 2021, the United States formed a strategic alliance of West Asian Countries known as I2U2, comprised of India-Israel-UAE-US. The main purpose of this strategic alliance is to enhance economic cooperation and counter Chinese expansionism in a region. IMEC builds on the I2U2 Group. Under the curtain of I2U2, the USA wants to pull away India from Russia and Iran. Similarly, it also wants to pull the Gulf States or MENA Region away from the Sino-Russo strategic influence.
The US wants to integrate Israel into the Middle East by normalizing its relations with KSA and other Arab nations, in line with I2U2.
It reflects that I2U2, under the economic cooperation of IMEC, is a geopolitical plan of the United States for the normalization of Arab-Israel relations. The expansionism of I2U2 is one of the main goals of US Foreign Policy for the Middle East.
Greece, a NATO member is a part of this IMEC. Greece’s port of Piraeus is also owned by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO). The USA and India are the main rivals of China in this new cold war or geostrategic competition. This is a golden chance for the USA and India to counter China’s BRI and Sino-Greece strategic partnership at Piraeus Port. India is enhancing its relations with the UAE, KSA, and Greece to contain the influence of China. India and Pakistan are the arch-rivals. India opposes CPEC (a flagship project of BRI), considering it a threat to India’s Sovereignty in the Indian Ocean.
Thus, IMEC is a great leverage for India to counter-balance the BRI in a region. Moreover, not only the US, China, Russia, and India are shaping the world order but the Gulf Powers like UAE, KSA, and Iran are also influencing the global world order. Iran is not made a part of IMEC by the US because Iran has close ties with Russia and China. Since 2022, the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine War felt across Africa and the Middle East resulting in a shortage of food and energy crisis in Europe. After the Russia-Ukraine War, both Europe and Russia sanctioned each other, resulting in the energy crisis in Europe. Now, Europe is looking forward to an alternative energy source.
Europe is expanding its energy relations with the Middle Eastern Countries. IMEC is a great opportunity for Europe to overcome its energy crisis. Europe acts as a little brother of the United States. It means that Europe is firmly under the influence of the US since 1945. Initially, Italy was part of the BRI but withdrew from it because of the pressure of the US. Also, Europe sanctioned Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
NATO is expanding towards the East due to which Russia considers NATO as a threat to Russian Sovereignty. Thus, the US is benefitting from the Russo-Euro ongoing tense situation.
From the European point of view, IMEC acts as a bridge for Europe in the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region by connecting it with the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Region through the Mediterranean Sea. This will benefit Europe both economically and politically as a revisionist power in the region. On the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, Saudi Arabia and the US struck a deal in which Saudi Arabia agreed that it would normalize its relations with Israel, and in exchange for it, the US would provide weapons and assist Saudi Arabia in the development of its Civilian Nuclear Program. However, due to the recent Israel-Palestine War 2023, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ended all the negotiations regarding the normalization of its relations with Israel. Also, Israel’s war against Gaza delayed the progression of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.
The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor has great geopolitical importance. As the influence of the US is weakening day by day, the US recently proposed IMEC to maintain its influence in both the Middle East and Europe. It is an alternative project to Chinese BRI to counter the increasing geopolitical clout of both Russia and China in the Middle East. On the other hand, Europe has a plan to overcome its energy crisis and to become a revisionist power in the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region through IMEC. Thus, the geopolitical implications of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor are shifting the geopolitics of both regions with the emergence of the new world order.
Eman Malik is an MPhil Scholar. She has done her BA honors and MPhil in Political Science from Kinnaird College for Women University, Lahore. Her areas of expertise are Political Science, IR, Geopolitics and Strategic Studies. Email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org