A revival of the IMEC idea amid choppy geopolitics – Could India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) become the New Silk Road? | 22 January 2024 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the impact of the Yemen conflict on the shipping industry's confidence in the Suez Canal and the potential for the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as an alternative trade route.


  • GS2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • GS3: Effects of Liberalization on the Economy


  • The ongoing conflict in Yemen has eroded confidence in the Suez Canal, a long-standing cornerstone of Asia-Europe trade.
  • Shippers, wary of disruptions, are increasingly considering the longer, less efficient route around Africa.
  • This has reignited interest in the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), a proposed alternative with the potential to reshape global trade dynamics.

India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Project:

  • The proposed IMEC will consist of Railroad, Ship-to-Rail networks and Road transport routes extending across two corridors, that is,
    • East Corridor: connecting India to the Arabian Gulf,
    • Northern Corridor: connecting the Gulf to Europe.
  • The IMEC corridor will also include an electricity cable, a hydrogen pipeline and a high-speed data cable.
  • Signatories: India, the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, the European Union, Italy, France, and Germany.
  • Route:
    • India: Mundra (Gujarat), Kandla (Gujarat), and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (Navi Mumbai).
    • Middle East: Fujairah, Jebel Ali, and Abu Dhabi in the UAE as well as Dammam and Ras Al Khair ports in Saudi Arabia.
    • Railway line will connect Fujairah port (UAE) to Haifa port (Israel) via: Saudi Arabia (Ghuwaifat and Haradh) and Jordan.
    • Israel: Haifa port.
    • Europe: Piraeus port in Greece, Messina in South Italy, and Marseille in France.


  • IMEC: A Viable Option, But Obstacles Arise
    • IMEC envisions a multi-modal network of rail, sea, and pipeline infrastructure connecting India to Europe via the Middle East. This would offer faster transit times, lower costs, and independence from volatile regions like the Suez Canal. However, significant challenges remain.
    • Geopolitical Friction: The core IMEC route requires close cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a relationship historically fraught with tension. Arab Street sentiment and Turkey's exclusion further complicate matters.
    • Infrastructure Bottlenecks: Haifa, the designated Israeli port for IMEC, currently lacks the capacity to handle the projected surge in Indian cargo. Significant upgrades would be necessary.
  • Navigating the Challenges: Paths to Success 
    • Despite the hurdles, several factors could favor IMEC's success:
    • Long-Term Trends: The Abraham Accords suggest a nascent shift towards greater Arab-Israeli trade cooperation, potentially smoothing IMEC's path.
    • Strategic Interests: The United States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia all stand to benefit from a stable and diversified trade route. Their financial backing could facilitate infrastructure development in Haifa.
    • Economic Imperatives: For India, IMEC aligns with its National Logistics Policy aimed at reducing logistics costs and boosting containerization.
  • Future Implications: A Reshaped Trade Landscape
    • A successful IMEC could have far-reaching consequences:
    • Shifting Power Dynamics: By bypassing the Suez Canal, IMEC could reduce Middle Eastern control over a critical trade artery, potentially rebalancing global economic relationships.
    • Regional Integration: Enhanced connectivity could bolster economic ties between India, the Middle East, and Europe, fostering cultural exchange and cooperation.
    • Fueling Decarbonization: IMEC's proposed hydrogen pipelines could facilitate the transition to cleaner energy sources, aligning with global climate goals.

Way Forward:

  • IMEC presents a potential solution to the Suez Dilemma, but its success hinges on overcoming geopolitical obstacles and infrastructural deficiencies. If these challenges can be addressed, IMEC could emerge as a transformative force, reshaping the global trade landscape for years to come.

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