Dark Gaza shadow spotlights rework need for BRI-alternative IMEC

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Israeli forces in Gaza

Image credit X IDF

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Expert calls for inclusion of Oman and Egypt in IMEC plans

 By Manish Anand

New Delhi, May 25: The President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Bin Zayad Al Nahyan, will travel to China next week. The visit comes amid gaining skepticism about the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

The ports of the UAE are at the centre stage of the IMEC. India hopes to cut down the costs of the shipments of the goods to Europe by 30 to 40 per cent.

The ports in the UAE and Israel are key links to the successful execution of IMEC. The deal was signed on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi last year.

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In an article for Al Monitor, Adam Lucente has argued that the Gaza conflicts and its spillover in the Middle East have affected the prosects of the IMEC plans. He asserted that the Gaza conflict is casting a long shadow in the maritime trade through the Middle East, involving ports of Israel and the UAE.

Incidentally, a high-level delegation from India consisting of the port officials had visited the UAE last week. The delegation had followed on the signing of the framework agreement on IMEC during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modit to the UAE.

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But the regional geostrategic observers are now lensing the long-lasting consequences of the Gaza conflicts. Israel continues to expand the theatre of its military operations in Gaza.

The Iran-backed Houthis have almost paralysed the maritime trade through the Red Sea. Even the China-flagged ships have borne the brunt of the Houthi fore power in the Red Sea.

Rajiv Agarwal of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis in an article in The Hindu has made a case for a rework of the IMEC plans. He has argued that Oman and Egypt should be made parts of the IMEC plans.

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Agarwal argued that India shared maritime trade with Oman for centuries. The ports of Oman open up in the Arabian Sea, he argued.

Agarwal also stated that the Strait of Hormuz under the influence of Iran is a long-term risk for the maritime trade. He stated that the UAE ports are in the close vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz.

The Gaza conflict has pitted Iran and Israel into crosshairs. Both the countries nearly came to a war recently. Also, Israel is facing the firepower of the Iran-backed Hezbollahs and Houthis.

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Incidentally, India’s Adani Port had bought the Haifa Port of Israel before the October 7 attacks by the Hamas against Israel. Since then, the port is reportedly counting losses after the diversion of ships through the Cape of Good Hope in the South African waters to escape the Houthi attacks.

“With the inclusion of Oman to the east and Egypt to the west, the IMEC can be made safe from disruptions from future conflicts,” wrote Agarwal. He added that the expansion of the IMEC plans will address both the politics and the economics.

Incidentally, India has cordial relations with both Oman and Egypt. Scores of Indian private firms are operating from the two countries.

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