The proposal to build a new transport corridor, known as IMEC – India Middle East Europe Corridor – was initially signed by 10 countries during the G20 summit in Delhi. However, it faced strong opposition from Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. These countries criticised the project for undermining the strategic significance of the Bosporus Strait, Chabahar Port, and Suez Canal, respectively. According to Iranian sources, this backlash has led to the abandonment of the project.

However, another parallel sea and land route, responding to the war in Gaza, originating from India’s Mundra to Israel’s Haifa, has emerged that bypasses the restive Red Sea. The big question is whether it will shape the IMEC or disappear after the ceasefire is announced in Gaza.

Iran’s most conservative newspaper, Kayhan, reported in its editorial on April 17 that the IMEC commercial corridor has been abandoned following the October 7 attack by Gaza. Kayhan highlighted that the primary goal of IMEC was to establish a commercial route connecting India to Israel and then onward to Europe, passing through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The newspaper noted that one of the key motivations behind creating this corridor was to provide competition to the Chabahar port.

Moreover, Kayhan also emphasised that the IMEC was intended to serve as a rival to the Russia-funded North-South corridor, which is centred around Iran. The strategic aim was to shift India’s focus towards Europe and Israel and reduce its dependency on the Central Asian route through Iran’s Chabahar port, where India has significant investments. Consequently, there is a discernible sense of satisfaction among Arab and Persian observers over how a US conceived corridor, which was meant to be a counterpoint to the North-South Corridor and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is coming to grief.

Hardnews had reported after the surprise October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that it could be linked to the announcement of the economic corridor that had been sealed by 10 nations after the G20 summit in Delhi. Even at that time, it was visible that the IMEC would hurt the commercial and geostrategic interests of Egypt and other Arab countries. Though the UAE was set to benefit from this corridor, the Saudis were not too overjoyed by it. Egypt was expected to be the worst impacted, as the corridor would have economically hurt the Suez Canal.

Even US President Joe Biden had hinted at the possibility of IMEC being behind the sudden Hamas attack, calling it a “big deal.” His statement held great merit, as a few weeks after the Hamas attack, which was followed by Israeli genocidal retaliation against the Palestinians, the Houthis blockaded the Red Sea and prevented any cargo ship destined for Israel. Despite the US and other Western allies bombing Yemen to allow the passage of Western ships, there has been an 80 percent fall in the number of cargo ships that take the Red Sea route. As the Suez Canal and Red Sea are not available, most now take the longer and costlier Cape of Good Hope route to access Europe or the USA.

In normal circumstances, the Houthis’ bravery and courage to take on the might of Israel and the US should have brought Israel to its heels, and they would have sought an escape route to announce a ceasefire. However, an informal IMEC came to the rescue of Tel Aviv. Not only were its oil and gas needs met, but cargo also travelled by a combination of sea and land routes. The journey began from the eastern corridor of the proposed IMEC, the Adani-owned Mundra, to Jebel Ali port in Dubai. From there, it covered some 2,000 kilometres by road through Saudi Arabia and Jordan to the Israeli port of Haifa. This is an arduous journey, but it helped Israel fill an important gap created by the Red Sea blockade and the firing of missiles by Houthis at Haifa, Ashkelon, and Elate.

Though many infrastructural gaps need to be filled before the IMEC corridor is declared complete, the sea and land route combination holds great promise for India and other countries that are part of it. The Israeli Minister for Transport, Miri Regev, who visited Mundra Port in February 2024, happily announced on X that a new route had opened up that would transport goods to her country. This route was expected to be cheaper and quicker as it would cut down travel time by 12 days. It was designed to help Saudi Arabia and Jordan earn transit fees from the cargo-laden trucks. Additionally, there are many parts of the 1,200 kilometres of railway track that need to be completed before trains can start plying between Jebel Ali and Haifa.

Similarly, discussions over the use of Green Hydrogen—the fuel of tomorrow—have not yet begun, as the attention of the signatories of the IMEC agreement has shifted. The US had dangled the promise of normalisation of ties with Israel as an incentive, but the genocidal war unleashed by Israel on the hapless people of Gaza has disrupted this arrangement. Many observers now believe that the IMEC has been compromised due to the lack of stability in the region. They argue that a revival of the project can only occur once life in the region normalises. This situation underscores the complex interdependencies between geopolitical relationships and economic initiatives in the Middle East.

India, which normally takes an aggressive pro-Palestinian position, has adopted a more nuanced view on this crisis, allowing it to conduct business with both Israel and Arab countries. However, there has been resentment among Indian trade unions over the manner in which Adani Port at Mundra agreed to send drones and other cargoes to Israel. The workers’ union refused to handle the cargo destined for Israel, prompting Adani to issue a clarification that the drones, being made under the licence of Israel’s Hermes, were intended for civilian purposes. Nonetheless, few believe this explanation.

The survival of the IMEC will depend on how India’s foreign policy preserves its strategic autonomy and finds ways to give meaning to New Delhi’s agreements on the Chabahar Port and the North-South Corridor, which aims to link the country to Europe more swiftly. Much will depend on how effectively we can resolve the contradictions of history and geography to enable economic corridors to succeed. The strategic choices made now will shape India’s diplomatic relations and its role in global trade networks.

SANJAY KAPOOR is a Senior Journalist based out of Delhi. He is a foreign policy specialist focused on India, its neighbourhood and West Asia. He is the Founder and Editor of Hardnews Magazine. He is a Member of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) and, until recently, served as the General Secretary of EGI.


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Following recent hostilities in Gaza, the once-promising IMEC – India-Middle East-Europe Corridor – succumbs to geopolitical pressures, raising questions about the future of regional trade routes and alliances.
IMEC Corridor Plans Collapse Amid Regional Conflicts