Gaza and the Fate of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor

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By Aga Syed Muntazir Mehdi, The India Observer, TIO: Described as United State’s alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Beijing’s multinational infrastructure and trade project. The West hopes IMEC can limit China’s rising geopolitical influence. However, the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has now put a spanner in the works, and it is stalling IMEC’s development.

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With war raging in the Middle East, the prospect of normalization between Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries with Israel has dimmed, taking hopes for the corridor along with it at least for now. And as long as Gaza’s fate remains unclear, so will IMEC’s future.

The war in Gaza is a complex and multi-layered issue, and most parties are evaluating the situation and making decisions after getting over the shock of the initial surprise.

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One of the issues that can help in understanding one aspect of the countries position and predicting future developments is the issue of the effects of this war on the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC or IMEC), which was revealed at the September G20 summit in India and many described it as one of the game changers in West Asia (world) and talked about the birth of a new Middle East. Hamas operations and Israel’s reaction are major obstacles to new dynamics in the Middle East, including IMEEC.

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IMEEC is primarily an anti-Chinese plan that, in addition to China, countries such as Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Qatar will suffer directly or indirectly from it, and on the other side, another group of countries including America, India, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Italy, France, Germany and European Union are considered as its official or unofficial partners. Being the competitor of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), whose sea route passes through the Suez Canal, and its land route passes almost the same historical route as the Silk Road. The United States, due to strategic competition, and India, due to deep border and political differences with China, are considered to be the main opponents of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and IMEEC is a joint initiative to curb this Chinese plan.

India-Middle East Economic Corridor.

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In addition, in the last two decades, America has tried to encourage the countries of the Middle East, Central Asia, and other places to expand their relations with India instead of China by introducing India as an emerging Asian power. Other corridors that will be affected by IMEEC include the China-Pakistan- Economic Corridor (CPEC) (route from China to Pakistan’s Gwadar port), Dry Canal (connecting Iraq’s Al-Faw port to Europe via Turkey and possibly Syria), North and Middle China-Europe corridors, and to some extent the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

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One of the main beneficiaries of IMEEC is Israel, which, in addition to advancing the project of normalizing relations with Arab and Islamic countries, will turn Haifa port into one of the important transit and maritime hubs with the help of heavy investment by Adani Co. of India. Greece, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Jordan, and other countries along the route will increase their importance and strategic weight by a significant factor by participating in IMEEC.

However, the negative effects of the recent war in Gaza on IMEEC are very large and can even cancel the entire project. The position of many countries related to IMEEC regarding the developments in Gaza has been affected by their views on the future of IMEEC. The first effect of recent developments in Gaza was the introduction of Haifa port as an unsafe port.

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In the advertisement of IMEEC and the Haifa port, the six-day blockade of the Suez Canal due to the grounding of a container ship in 2021 was usually mentioned, which severely damaged transfers and global trade, and in only one item, the compensation requested by the Egyptian company holding Suez was about one billion dollars, which finally agreed to pay 550 million dollars with the guilty ship. This compensation was a small part of the total damage that was achieved, and the most important strength of IMEEC was the security and reliability of the Haifa port in comparison with the Suez Canal. The operations in Gaza and the cancellation of many flights and transportation operations throughout the occupied territories have made many investors rethink this relationship.

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One of the reasons for the one-sided stance of the New Delhi in declaring solidarity with then Israeli regime and calling the operations of Hamas terrorists can be considered as the result of his anger over the effect of this action on IMEEC and also the heavy investment of India in the ports of Haifa and Greece. On the other hand, China, which tried to adopt a neutral and neutral position in similar events, took a position more inclined than usual in favor of Hamas and the Palestinian people, both in the official arena and in the media, which can be interpreted to the satisfaction of continuing Hamas's operation to make the work of the BRI rival difficult.

The world benefits from the India Middle East Europe Corridor (IMEC)

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Egypt, which sees IMEEC as a rival and substitute for the Suez Canal and is unhappy that IMEEC does not pass through Egypt, does not dislike the success of Hamas.

The importance of Egypt lies in the fact that it has the Rafah crossing as the lifeline of Gaza, and it is practically impossible to blockade Gaza without blocking Rafah. Israel,s attack and bombing of Rafah can be because the Israeli regime is sure that Egypt will not really cooperate with the blockade of Gaza this time because of IMEEC.

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The position of the United States, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Syria, and other important regional and extra-regional actors, although they were based on their traditional positions, among them, a percentage of change can be seen. Especially, when there is no hope of immediate establishment of a ceasefire can be known appropriate to the considerations about IMEEC.

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Although the Hamas operation was an independent action and resulted from the accumulation of increasing and brazen oppression of the Israeli regime, one of the effective factors on the way countries take a practical stance is their considerations towards IMEEC and this issue can be important and decisive in continuation or determination of the fate of this war.

Edited By Adam Rizvi

Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

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