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Kurt Campbell: Work on IMEC Corridor Continues -Exclusive

Work on the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) continues despite some challenges in the Middle East, the US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told Leaders MENA Magazine.

The IMEC project was announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, in September 2023, with the aim of connecting India, the Middle East, and Europe via a seamless trade route.

IMEC in Progress

In a digital press briefing organized by the US Department of State, Deputy Secretary Campbell spoke about his recent trip to India, along with the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

In response to a question by Leaders MENA Magazine, Campbell said that the IMEC was part of the discussions between the US and Indian national security advisors in Delhi. “I think the ambitions in Europe and particularly the Middle East around engaging India more deeply in transformative infrastructure that would link South Asia with Europe, those ambitions remain high,” he said.

He noted that work is going on in different arenas. “It is clear that some of the challenges in the Middle East have been – have provided some challenges, but at the same time the work continues on this project,” Campbell added.

Ambitious Initiative

During the G20 summit in New Delhi, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, India, the UAE, France, Germany, Italy, and the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to advance this grand project that would link India to Europe via the Gulf.

The IMEC will extend along 4,800 km and will consist of a railroad, ship-to-rail networks, and other transport routes. It will be divided into two sections: an eastern maritime link between India and the Gulf, and a northern corridor connecting the Gulf to Europe.

The rail and sea routes will facilitate the transit of goods and services, as well as enabling electric and digital connectivity and pipelines for exporting clean energy.

The countries participating in the IMEC account for 40% of the world’s population and about 50% of the global economy. The project intends to establish a seamless route for international trade that will reduce trade costs, encourage market access, and create investment opportunities for the participating countries.

Saudi Potential

This transcontinental project will rely on the Saudi and Emirati seaports, roads and logistics hubs, bolstering these countries significance as central hubs in the global trade routes.

The IMEC corridor serves Saudi Arabia’s objectives under Vision 2030. Riyadh is working to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons. Given that the IMEC aims to establish a green hydrogen pipeline to supply Europe, it will cement the Kingdom’s position as a major player in the energy transition and enhance its role in future energy markets.

Challenges to IMEC

Conflicts in the Middle East have raised concerns over the prospects of completing the project as scheduled. The IMEC faces a myriad of threats, including the ongoing Israeli war in Gaza, the Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, and the escalation between Iran and Israel.

However, the Group of Seven (G7) have pledged in their recent summit in Italy to advance key infrastructure projects, including the IMEC. Moreover, India and the UAE have signed a pact in February to quickly operationalize the IMEC Corridor.

According to The Print, work has already begun in June to operationalize the first leg of the corridor between India and the UAE. India has set a 100-day deadline for this process. Shipments will transit by ship from India to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The next stage will involve transporting cargo via the rail link from Saudi Arabia to Jordan, and then to Europe.

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