China’s BRI Now Faces A Credible Indian Challenger

Source– The post is based on the article “China’s BRI Now Faces A Credible Indian Challenger” published in “The Times of India” on 11th September 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance- Connectivity related issues in international politics

News–  During the recent G20 summit, India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC) was introduced.

What are some facts about the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC)?

This initiative focuses on multi-modal connectivity. It aims to connect India with Europe through ports and railway corridors constructed in the Middle East. It offers an alternative to the current trade routes that pass through the Suez Canal.

In terms of its conception and design, IMEE-EC appears to be a counterproposal to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It can be seen as India’s own “Boats and Rail Initiative”.

It involves the construction of a railway track across the Arabian deserts. It is complemented by shipping connections from India on one end and Europe on the other.

The plans also include the installation of infrastructure for electricity, hydrogen, and data pipelines running alongside the railway tracks.

What are some positive aspects about the initiative?

The presence of the United States as a key sponsor of this initiative provides it with ample political, technological, managerial, and financial resources. It significantly increases its chances of success.

The involvement of financially sound stakeholders such as the US, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and India substantially reduces the risks of one-sided financial outcomes.

India also enjoys a demographic dividend for some time. Its credit cycle is near its bottom, with healthy balance sheets. The Digital Public Stack is opening numerous doors on an unprecedented scale.

What is the geopolitical importance of IMEE-EC for India?

It addresses complex geopolitical challenges that have hindered India’s previous efforts to establish transportation links with Europe via the Middle East and Central Asia.

The most straightforward land route, through Pakistan, has been consistently unviable due to ongoing Indo-Pak disputes.

The connection to Chabahar port has always been susceptible to the risks associated with US sanctions on Iran.

The International North-South Transport Corridor, designed to link India to the Eurasian landmass, has faced geopolitical obstacles. IMEE-EC does not face these same intricate geopolitical constraints.

It signifies India’s increased involvement in the Middle East. India will reclaim some of its historical legacy as a successor state to the British Raj.

What is the geostrategic significance of the Middle East for India?

The concept of the Middle East as a regional construct was initially conceived and shaped by British India.

Lord Curzon envisioned British India’s security as dependent on the creation of a series of buffer states.

It includes Tibet to the north, Afghanistan to the northwest, and access to the Arabian Sea through ports in the Persian Gulf and the Bay of Bengal via the Malacca and Sunda Straits.

British India’s influence in the Middle East was so deep that several countries in the region used the Indian Rupee as legal tender until the mid-1960s.

What are the challenges before this initiative?

However, the initiative must meet performance. This applies first and foremost to India’s own performance.

China’s GDP surged from $3.55 trillion in 2007 to $12.3 trillion in 2017, whereas India’s GDP currently stands at $3.4 trillion.

The world is more complex today. The Washington Consensus is fraying. The global political-economic framework that facilitated rapid growth in much of Asia is in decline. India faces greater challenges today.

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