Turkey’s Objection to the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor
Turkey has raised concerns regarding the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, a significant achievement of the recent summit. President Erdogan of Turkey has stated that the corridor cannot proceed without Turkey’s involvement. He insists that any traffic moving from the east to the west must transit through Turkey (Turkiye). This ambitious project involves eight nations: India, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union. Additionally, it is set to benefit Israel and Jordan.
The Corridor’s Route and Purpose:
The corridor, starting from Mumbai, will provide an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Spanning a length of 6,000 kilometers, including a 3,500-kilometer sea route, it promises to significantly reduce transportation time for commodities from India to Europe. This reduction is expected to save up to 14 days compared to the current 36-day shipping time from India to Germany. Consequently, the corridor will simplify and make import-export operations between India and Europe more cost-effective with direct access.
India’s participation in this project is driven by several factors:
- Indo-Pacific Cooperation: India and the United States, initially cooperating in the Indo-Pacific area, have officially joined forces in the Middle East, increasing India’s strategic presence.
- Overcoming Obstacles: The longstanding obstacle of Pakistan hindering India’s land connectivity with Central Asia has been overcome. Pakistan had resisted these efforts since 1991.
- Impact of Sanctions: Although India’s relations with Iran have improved, U.S. sanctions have affected plans for the Russia-Iran Corridor, which would connect Iran with Eurasia.
- Arab Partnerships: Partnerships with Arab countries, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are being strengthened to create permanent connectivity with India.
- Political Stability: The United States envisions improved relations and increased political stability in the Arabian Peninsula due to this extensive connectivity initiative.
- European Union Collaboration: India’s partnership with the European Union, which has allocated 300 million euros for infrastructure spending during 2021-27, underscores its commitment to the project.
- Counter to BRI: The corridor serves as a compelling alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, offering an escape from the debt traps that many nations have experienced. Furthermore, it enables more effective responses to China and Russia’s growing influence in African nations if the G-20 recognizes the African Union as a partner.
China has expressed dissatisfaction with the project, characterizing it as “a lot of talk, less work.” The official Chinese newspaper, Global Times, has accused the United States of resurrecting an old plan during the G-20 summit in Delhi and asserted that this is not the first time America has proposed expanding this initiative. The Chinese government is skeptical of the project’s feasibility, especially concerning the promised rail lines in the Gulf and Arab countries, questioning the U.S.’s intentions and capacity to deliver on these commitments.
In conclusion, while the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor holds immense potential for transforming trade and connectivity, it also faces significant challenges, including Turkey’s objections and China’s skepticism. The success of this ambitious endeavor will depend on diplomatic negotiations, collaboration among the involved nations, and the ability to address these concerns.