Sources – sundayguardianlive

Brushing aside apprehensions that the war between Israel and Hamas will cast a shadow on the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more determined than before to translate his “ambitious initiative” into reality. Undeterred by the negative developments in West Asia, Prime Minister Modi has decided to fast-track the process to make this “corridor project” a reality, The Sunday Guardian has learnt. “All establishments—from the MEA, NSA, Railways, ports, internal and external security to Finance, Commerce and Industry Ministries have been put in mission mode to ensure smooth operations of all the phases leading to completion of IMEC,” a diplomatic source told The Sunday Guardian.

As part of this mission, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval will be engaging with all stake-holders in the IMEC project, sources said. Jaishankar’s conversation with his counterpart from the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Wednesday (11 October) was understandably a part of this diplomatic mission. Jaishankar was in Sri Lanka when he spoke to Nahyan. Sources said that while discussing the crisis in West Asia triggered by the attacks on Israel by Hamas terrorists and Tel Aviv’s counter offensive, the two foreign ministers also spoke about IMEC. “Spoke to Foreign Minister @ABZayed of UAE this evening. Discussed the ongoing crisis in West Asia. Agreed to stay in touch,” the External Affairs Minister said in a post on X.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the conflict in Israel and Palestine will not dampen plans for IMEC. She was in Marrakech, Morocco to attend the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings-2023. She also held discussions with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other key officials of the Biden administration there. Sources said that the issue of IMEC figured during her talks with the US officials. Significantly, Sitharaman later said, “The IMEC, which is an Indian initiative, is for the long term, and its significance is long-term. While short-term glitches can have concerns and occupy our minds, we will keep engaging with all stakeholders. This is just not for the immediate future, we have started it with a long-term interest,” she said.

“Her statement, in fact, points towards the strategy on which the Modi government is working in terms of fast-tracking the process for IMEC,” a source said. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also gave his reaction on the same line when he was asked about the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on IMEC. He said that IMEC is an initiative with long-term significance.

Sources say that the statements which have come from the Indian side over the past few days confirm that the Modi government is in a hurry to reach out to all stakeholders of the IMEC initiative so as to ensure that the West Asia crisis cannot cause any obstacle to it. It is also clear that the Modi government wants to impress upon all stakeholders that the West Asia conflict will not impact the initiative.

In the coming days, EAM Jaishankar will establish communication with his counterparts from other countries that are involved in this initiative. Apart from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, EU, France, Italy, Germany and the US are also India’s partners in IMEC. This ambitious transnational infrastructure project is said to be the brainchild of PM Narendra Modi. It was pursued by NSA Ajit Doval. This project has the potential to be a viable alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) being operationalised by China. Plans for the multimodal transport and energy corridor between India and Europe via the Middle East were announced at the G20 Summit held in September in the national capital.

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Nothing can explain the importance of IMEC any better than PM Modi’s own statement. While hailing the proposed India-Middle East-Europe Corridor, PM Modi said it “is going to become the basis of world trade for hundreds of years to come, and history will always remember that this corridor was an initiative on Indian soil.” A diplomat here said: “The idea of the initiative, which has origin in Indian soil as PM Modi himself referred to, cannot be allowed to be sabotaged by any negative development. Modi will make all possible efforts to ensure its completion, roping in the US, European countries and other partners.” At the initiative of PM Modi, the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France, Germany, Italy and European Union joined India to announce a Memorandum of Understanding to develop the IMEC on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi last month. The global leaders including US President Joe Biden described it as historic, game changing and a landmark corridor.

Sources said that NSA Ajit Doval has also been given the task of holding meetings with his counterparts and other officials from the stakeholder countries to ensure that the project sails through all turbulence. According to sources, several meetings between the officials and ministers of India and the partner countries are lined up in near future. Prime Minister Modi will also use his bilateral talks with the leaders of any of these countries to expedite the IMEC initiative. Last month, during his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, PM Modi had spent a lot of time discussing how the IMEC project can be carried out expeditiously, sources said.