India, US, Saudi Arabia and UAE to develop joint railway infrastructure: Report
If reports are to be believed, the USA, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India may soon develop a joint infrastructure that connects Gulf and Arab countries via a railway network and also extends to India via shipping lanes.
The proposal for the infrastructure could be discussed on Sunday as the national security advisers (NSAs) of these countries meet in Saudi Arabia, according to a report by Axios.
"The initiative would include connecting Arab countries in the Levant and the Gulf via a network of railways that will also connect to India through seaports in the Gulf," the publication noted.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has reportedly planned the meeting of Saudi-UAE-India NSAs and is expected to push forward the idea.
Notably, the seeds of such a joint infrastructure programme were first laid out over 18 months ago in another forum called I2U2 which comprises the likes of the India, Israel, US and UAE. The forum established in late 2021 discussed strategic infrastructure projects in the Middle East.
Sullivan hinted at picking up from where the discussion was left, during his speech earlier this week at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“If you remember nothing else from my speech, remember I2U2, because you will be hearing more about it as we go forward," he said.
India to be the glue?
According to experts, India can be the glue which binds the grouping. New Delhi has steady ties with Washington and the latter sees it as a natural ally to counter the threat of China on the global map. The Middle East is a key part of China's Belt and Road vision and the US believes that the joint initiative is the best way to counter Beijing.
As for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, India is a significant energy consumer from the region. Prior to pivoting towards Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion, India was heavily dependent on the region for its energy needs.
According to industry data, OPEC's (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) share in India's oil imports fell to an all-time low of 46 per cent in April as purchase of cheaper Russian oil peaked.
OPEC made up for as much as 90 per cent of all crude oil India imported at one point in time but this has been sliding since Russian oil became available at a discount.
However, despite the change, India remains a significant exporter of consumer goods and labour to West Asia. Not to forget, New Delhi enjoys friendly relations with both countries.
Though Israel is not part of the new grouping, it could be added in the future given the normalisation of ties due to the signing of the Abraham Accords.