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The US and EU have backed the development of a new ship and rail corridor connecting India to the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea in a challenge to China’s economic clout in the region. The plan was launched on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on Saturday, through a memorandum of understanding agreed by leaders including US president Joe Biden, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who all shook hands at the end of the event. The proposed corridor would stretch across the Arabian Sea from India to the United Arab Emirates, then cross Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel before linking up to Europe. Talks about such a project, which would also include a new undersea cable and energy transport infrastructure, have been going on behind the scenes between the countries involved for months, but they will now proceed on a more formal basis. No binding financial commitments were made but the parties agreed to come up with an “action plan” over the next 60 days. Biden said the corridor would offer “endless opportunities” for the countries involved, “making it far easier to trade [and] export clean energy”, and “lay cable that will connect communities”. He said it would “contribute to a more stable and prosperous Middle East”. “This is nothing less than historic. It will be the most direct connection to date between India, the Arabian Gulf and Europe,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said at the launch of the project. “It is a green and digital bridge across continents and civilisations,” she said, adding that the rail link would make trade between India and Europe 40 per cent faster. For the US, the project could act as a counter to Beijing’s growing influence in the region, at a time when Washington’s traditional Arab partners, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are deepening ties with China, India and other Asian powers. The planned corridor’s passage through Jordan and Israel could also support the Biden administration’s efforts to build on the recent normalisation of relations between Israel and several Arab states, including the UAE, as it pushes Saudi Arabia to follow suit and formalise ties, a person briefed on the discussions said.
Source : ft.com