Breaking the Mold: India’s IMEC vs. China’s Belt and Road


2023 was a significant year for India. India surpassed China and became the most populated country in the world. The technological advancements in India are remarkable. For example, the Chandrayaan-3 mission was a success. Also, the 2023 G20 summit, the world’s most important intergovernmental organization, was held in New Delhi, India. In the meeting, India announced the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). 


The main goal of IMEC is to upgrade and harmonize the trade infrastructure between India, the Arabian Peninsula, and Europe. The European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States have pledged to work together towards achieving this objective. IMEC, with these features, seems like a natural rival to China’s Belt and Road initiative. China and India have the world’s largest populations and cheapest labor. Most of the factories and production are here. The world trade mostly drains from east to west. The US policies regarding IMEC are also significant. The IMEC project is a US diplomatic tool to counter China’s influence in the Middle East.


However, the IMEC mission is still quite distant from the Belt and Road initiative. China started this project a decade ago and they made significant progress. More than 150 countries are participating in the project, which has already cost more than 1 trillion dollars. Participants of IMEC are also part of the Belt and Road initiative. According to Ravinder Kaur, a professor at the University of Copenhagen “Most countries these days tend to participate in multiple fora and alliances.”


Finally, there are some conspiracy narratives that IMEC is just a policy tool forcing the Middle East to normalize relations with Israel. The three key participants in this project are Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia. IMEC could continue the Abraham Accords to improve relations among the three countries. The exclusion of key players such as Turkey, Qatar, and Kuwait from the mission may be evidence of a conspiracy.


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