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India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor: What is the project and why is it being proposed?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced the launch of the India-Middle East-Europe mega economic corridor. The project includes India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, France, Italy, Germany and the US.

“Today we all have reached an important and historic partnership. In the coming times, it will be a major medium of economic integration between India, West Asia and Europe,” he said. The corridor will give a new direction to connectivity and sustainable development of entire world, said PM Modi

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden called the launch “a big deal”, saying one is going to hear the phrase economic corridor more often in the coming decade.

What is the project?

The rail and shipping corridor is part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII) — a collaborative effort by G7 nations to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations. PGII is considered to be the bloc’s counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The project will aim to enable greater trade among the involved countries, including energy products. “It could also be one of the more ambitious counters to China’s massive infrastructure program, through which it has sought to connect more of the world to that country’s economy,” AP said.

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The corridor will include a rail link as well as an electricity cable, a hydrogen pipeline and a high-speed data cable, according to a document prepared by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The document also called the project “a green and digital bridge across continents and civilizations.”

Why is the project being proposed?

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Speaking to AP, Jon Finer, President Biden’s principal deputy national security adviser, gave three major reasons for developing the corridor. First, it would increase prosperity among the countries involved through an increased flow of energy and digital communications. Second, the project would help deal with the lack of infrastructure needed for growth in lower- and middle-income nations. And third, it could help “turn the temperature down” on “turbulence and insecurity” coming out of the Middle East, Finer said, according to AP.

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“We see this as having a high appeal to the countries involved, and also globally, because it is transparent, because it is a high standard because it is not coercive,” he added.

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Moreover, the project could be seen as Biden’s attempt to further strengthen the G20 group to counter the dominance of China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

(With inputs from AP)

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