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On September 9, 2023, eight G20 members signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi, which includes the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, United Kingdom, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States (Jordan did not sign the memorandum of understanding). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the corridor would become the basis of world trade for hundreds of years to come, and history will remember that this corridor was initiated on Indian soil, because with the advancement of globalization, international trade has increased exponentially, necessitating more logistics channels to meet the growing demand.

The landmark IMEC is expected to enhance connectivity and economic integration between the two continents, thereby fostering economic development and unlocking sustainable and inclusive economic growth, claimed a briefing note issued by the White House. Therefore, this economic corridor, which consists of the Eastern Corridor (connecting India to the Gulf region) and the Northern Corridor (connecting the Gulf region to Europe), is designed to secure regional supply chains, increase trade accessibility and improve trade facilitation through the establishment of a reliable and cost-effective cross-border sea-rail transportation network, as well as the laying of power and digital optic fiber cables along the railroads and the promotion of clean hydrogen exports.

This article is to demonstrate the significance of the India – Middle East – Europe Corridor. Firstly, it briefly introduces the IMEC and its development, while analyzing its importance from economic, political, and cultural perspectives. Secondly, it analyzes the expected role of the IMEC, especially for Middle Eastern countries. Finally, it discusses the challenges which faced by the IMEC, and the problems caused by the launch of the IMEC, with strategies and opportunities to overcome them. These last elements are also analyzed based on a Chinese perspective and a strong focus on the matter.

Historical Overview of the India – Middle East – Europe Corridor

The history of the IME Corridor dates back to the ancient Silk Road, an ancient trade route that provided a platform for exchanges and interactions between civilizations, but it has experienced rapid development since the early 21st century. The Silk Road facilitated not only the exchange of goods, but also the spread of religion, culture, technology and art, laying the foundation for the economic prosperity and cultural flourishing of these regions.

Over time, these historical links were strengthened and consolidated in various areas. During the Middle Ages, the arrival of Arab empires and Muslim traders further strengthened the links between the Middle East and India and Europe. They not only brought goods to India and Europe, but also spread Islamic culture, scientific knowledge and works of art. This cross-cultural exchange had a profound impact on the social and cultural development of the Middle East, India and Europe.

Nonetheless, European colonial expansion also facilitated links between these regions. During the colonial period, European countries furthered the links between India, the Middle East and Europe by establishing colonies and trade networks. This led to more population movements, cultural exchanges and trade activities, but also to quite a bit of conflict and exploitation.

However, the rise of India’s economy, the abundant oil resources in the Middle East, and the demand for markets in Europe have elevated the IMEC’s status in global trade. Thus, the IMEC has emerged as a vital trade route, garnering widespread attention, as a part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment presented at the G7 Summit. This corridor will consist of an electricity cable, a hydrogen pipeline, a high-speed data cable, and most importantly, two separate corridors, the east corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf, and the northern corridor connecting the Arabian Gulf to Europe. This IMEC is intended to increase efficiencies, reduce costs, enhance economic unity, generate jobs, and lower greenhouse gas emission, thus contributing to economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe. And as a crucial trade route connecting India, the Middle East, and Europe, which are among the world’s largest emerging market countries, the IME Corridor holds great significance. The corridor thus aims to reduce the cost of trade between participating countries by 40 per cent, making it a strong competitor to existing trade routes.

In terms of commercial cargo transportation, the IMEC will establish links between Indian and UAE ports. Subsequently, it will connect the UAE to Israel via a railroad through the territories of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, with goods being transported from Israeli ports to Europe by sea. Along this trade route, the project will utilize the expansive storage and transshipment facilities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to increase their efficiency.

In addition, trade agreements aimed at opening markets and facilitating transit through these countries will further benefit the project. With regard to the transfer of energy, electricity and digital data sources, the project aims to interconnect the signatory countries through hydrogen pipelines, initially utilizing them for gas transportation. In addition, the rail line between the UAE and Israel, as well as the remaining submerged portion of the corridor, will carry power transmission and digital communication cables.

Main Points of Cooperation Between IMEC Parties

The IMEC can be seen as part of a broader strategy to improve global trade linkages, reduce transportation costs and diversify supply chains. It draws inspiration from historic trade routes such as the Silk Road, adapting the concept to the modern geopolitical and economic landscape. The IMEC will enable the transportation of products and services from India to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Europe. Also, this corridor not only enhances economic cooperation but also fosters diplomatic ties and strategic partnerships among the involved regions.

From an economic point of view, the IMEC countries benefit from deeper cooperation, which fosters regional economic growth. For example, India can export software and services to Europe, while Middle Eastern countries can export oil and other resources to Europe. Overall, the corridor is expected to improve economic unity, create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower expenses and increase efficiency (with respect to transit).

Regarding the infrastructure, to meet the growing trade demands of the IMEC, related countries are investing in infrastructure development, enhancing the transportation capacity of ports, roads, and railways, which in turn promotes infrastructure improvement.

Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said the IMEC is historic and “a green digital bridge across continents and civilizations.” The remarks emphasize the corridor’s role in promoting sustainability and technological advancement while bridging cultural divides and fostering mutual understanding. Additionally, with the implementation of rail links, the corridor is expected to expedite bilateral trade between India and Europe by an impressive 40 percent faster than via the Suez Canal maritime route (10 days faster), demonstrating its great impact on regional economies.

For India, this economic corridor is not just a pathway for commodities; it is a pathway to prosperity. It serves as an important export route for Indian products, providing India with access to lucrative markets such as Europe. It also provides a streamlined way to bring in cutting-edge technology and investment from the Middle East. By utilizing this corridor, India can further enhance its economic competitiveness and expand its position in the global economy as a key player in the integrated world economy.

Energy security is critical for both India and Europe and is the key to their economic stability and strategic autonomy. This planned corridor aims to integrate the Middle Eastern countries through an extensive rail network. And connect them to India through strategically located ports, thereby creating a strong and efficient cross-border ship-rail transit infrastructure. In addition, participants intend to install power and digital connectivity cables along the rail lines, along with renewable hydrogen pipelines to enhance power generation capacity. These comprehensive initiatives aim to significantly reduce transit times, cut operational costs and reduce fuel consumption, thereby accelerating energy exports and streamlining trade processes in the Gulf region.

For developed countries in Europe, the corridor promises to provide easy access to stable supplies of oil and gas from the Middle East, as well as competitively priced commodities made in India and South Asia. This access not only diversifies energy sources, but also reduces dependence on Russia, thereby enhancing energy security and reducing inflationary pressures on European economies. In addition, by strengthening economic ties with India and the Middle East, European countries can expect to gain broader access to markets and expand opportunities for economic growth and innovation.

In essence, the IMEC emerges as a transformative infrastructure project with far-reaching implications for energy security, economic development, and geopolitical dynamics. By fostering collaboration and connectivity across regions, the corridor embodies a vision of shared prosperity and resilience, positioning India and Europe as key stakeholders in the evolving global energy landscape

Since the Middle East is a region of complex rivalries and conflicts, the IMEC will provide an alternative route for trade and commerce. In addition, as foreseen, the enhanced connectivity promotes deeper diplomatic engagement and cooperation between countries, contributing to stability and peace in the region.

For the Saudi-led Arab region and Israel, the planned common railroad corridor and two important ports located in the north and south, coupled with the establishment of the economic corridor, will significantly improve tensions in the region. These initiatives not only have the potential to lead to the formalization of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but also mark the dawn of a new era of cooperation and shared prosperity. Moreover, by enhancing Saudi Arabia’s position as the dominant energy power, these developments will reshape the geopolitical landscape of the region, ushering in a new era of stability and prosperity.

As such, from a political point of view, through trade interactions, the IMEC countries will have strengthened political trust and improved regional cooperation. For instance, until now, India and Middle Eastern countries have conducted extensive cooperation in security and counter-terrorism. As a result, transformative integration between Asia, Europe and the Middle East is expected.

Also, the economic and trade exchanges between the IMEC countries have facilitated cultural exchange, enhancing mutual understanding among people from different nations and promoting cultural exchanges and mutual learning. Furthermore, the IMEC’s role in promoting tourism has opened up new avenues for cultural exploration and appreciation, immersing travelers in the unique traditions and customs of each region. This exchange of experiences not only enriches individual perspectives, but also helps to promote tolerance and respect for cultural differences.

Overall, the IMEC’s contribution to cultural exchange and cooperation transcends mere economic transactions and embodies a vision of shared humanity. As individuals from India, the Middle East and Europe continue to engage in dialogue and cooperation, the IMEC will serve as a powerful testament to the role of cultural exchange in shaping a more inclusive and harmonious global community.

Expected Role of the India – Middle East – Europe Corridor

The ship-to-rail transit network is the most important part of the IMEC, which is expected to be an alternative for global trading companies, when problems arise with the Suez route. Due to the spillover effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the throughput of the Suez Canal has been declining since October 2023, leading to the seven-day moving average of the number of ships passing through the Suez Canal decreased to 40 on March 1, 2024, compared to 67 at the same time in the previous year (Portwatch). As such, foreign trade enterprises either detour via the Cape of Good Hope or choose alternative transportation routes such as the CHINA RAILWAY Express. However, from a carrying capacity point of view, international rail transportation is not able to provide a complete substitute for the canal. Therefore, if IMEC’s ship-to-rail transit network is realized, this will provide a new option for trading enterprises. In addition, despite the fact that China has already invested heavily in ports and railroads in the Middle Eastern countries involved in the IMEC, China has an extremely open attitude toward the global infrastructure sector. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin once commented on the GDII, of which the IMEC is part, that, China believes that the room for cooperation is broad enough for global infrastructure cooperation and he also stressed that, China welcomes all initiatives that can help pool synergy and promote global infrastructure development (MFA PRC, 2022.6).

As one of the initiators of the project, India is an important economic partner for some Middle Eastern countries, and the IMEC will further increase its investment and trade in the countries concerned. After the Modi-led government came to power in 2014, it put forward the ‘Link West’ strategy, which was inherited from its predecessor’s ‘Look West’ strategy, and India’s relationship with the Middle East has been deepening. In 2022, India’s trade with the UAE was valued at $85 billion, making it the second largest partner of the UAE and the first country to sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE; and for Saudi Arabia, India’s trade with it was $52.4 billion, also making it the second largest partner of the Saudi Arabia. In addition, the Middle East has a large migrant worker population from India. In the UAE, there were 3.554 million Indians in 2023, compared to 3.419 million in 2022 (MEA IND,2023.8), nearly one-third of its total population. After the project formally launched, it is expected to provide better job placement and vocational training opportunities for the Indian migrant workforce.

General Challenges Facing the IMEC and the Problems It May Cause

First of all, the project was also created with the intention that it would serve as a catalyst for relations between Middle Eastern countries and Israel through the construction of cross-border transportation routes. However, on the one hand, the number of Middle Eastern countries that have joined the project is quite limited, with only the UAE and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the outbreak of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has made the realization of this goal even more uncertain, and to a large extent, even if the transportation line is completed, the restoration of bilateral relations will still be extremely slow.

Nonetheless, given the rise of trade protectionism globally, the trade flows along the IMEC may be affected to some extent. Therefore, countries should actively respond to trade protectionism to safeguard the free trade system. Also, since certain IMEC countries are located in the Middle East, the entire corridor could be submitted to the high geopolitical risks in the region.

Secondly, the initiators of the project, the United States and India, are to some extent initiating the IMEC with a competitive attitude to weaken the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative’s influence in the Middle East, potentially leading to conflicts between the two sides in the region, which is detrimental to the stability of the region.

Thirdly, Egypt is holding an opposing view on the project as it would bypass the Suez Canal. As an important actor in the region, the failure of the project’s participants to reach a reasonable agreement with Egypt may certainly have a negative impact on the construction of the corridor as well as the relations among the countries in this region.

Still, with regards to the Israeli-Gulf relations, Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official relations due to differences of opinion on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Only Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco are officially recognized as diplomatic partners of Israel. This places particular emphasis on transportation networks aimed at multifaceted integration, such as the IMEC.

Lastly, since IMEC bypasses Pakistan, this breaks its leverage over India’s land connectivity with the West, an obstacle it has faced in the past. This will help strengthen India’s engagement with the Arabian Peninsula and promote regional connectivity in this politically volatile region.

Opportunities for Development of the China – IMEC Connection

  1. Economic Cooperation and Trade Expansion: The IMEC provides China with a direct route to the markets of India, the Middle East, and Europe. This enhances the competitiveness of Chinese enterprises in the international market and improves the visibility of Chinese products.
  2. Energy Security and Cooperation: The Middle East is a major producer of global energy resources. By participating in the corridor’s development, China can strengthen energy cooperation with Middle Eastern countries, diversify its energy import channels, and enhance the security and stability of its energy supply.
  3. Infrastructure Construction and Technical Cooperation: China has extensive and advantages in the field of infrastructure construction. By engaging in the development of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor, China can export its technology and standards, enhancing its competitiveness in the global construction market.
  4. Cultural Exchange and Educational Cooperation: The countries along the IMEC have rich cultural traditions and educational resources. China can strengthen cultural exchanges and resource sharing in education with these countries through the corridor, thereby enhancing its international influence.

Challenges and Strategies for Response from Chinese Perspective

  1. Political Risk and Security Challenges: Some countries along the corridor have political instability and terrorism and extremism risks, posing threats to Chinese investments and personnel security. Response strategies include strengthening cooperation with international organizations, promoting the establishment of a peaceful and stable regional environment, and safeguarding China’s national interests through diplomatic means.
  2. Increased Competition: As global attention and investment in the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor grow, China faces intense competition in this field. Response strategies include improving the cost-effectiveness of Chinese projects, strengthening technological innovation, and enhancing China’s international cooperative influence through multilateral and bilateral cooperation.
  3. Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development: Balancing economic development with environmental protection and achieving sustainable development during the corridor’s construction is an issue for China. Response strategies include promoting green building and environmental technologies, strengthening environmental regulation, and pushing for the construction of a green silk road.


The importance of the Indo-European Corridor lies in its economic, energy, strategic and cultural dimensions. By establishing a reliable cross-border sea and rail transportation network, the corridor is expected to strengthen trade links between the Middle East, India and Europe, improve trade accessibility, and provide strong support for regional economic growth and development; by promoting clean energy exports and building a more efficient energy infrastructure, the corridor will help to reduce dependence on traditional energy sources, and promote sustainable development and environmental protection; and by establishing a digital infrastructure and connectivity mechanisms, the corridor is expected to accelerate the free flow of data, energy and commodities between India, the Middle East and Europe, creating a more conducive environment for economic prosperity.

The IMEC provides a convenient trade route for, the Middle East, and European countries, reducing trade costs and enhancing trade efficiency, thereby promoting the development of international trade. Also, the IMEC represents a vision of a more connected world that capitalizes on geographical advantages for economic gain.

However, the IMEC is also likely to face a number of challenges. The construction of the corridor requires political will and coordination among the various participants, which may be hampered by divergent interests and priorities; the huge financial investment and complex process of infrastructure development may lead to difficulties in implementation, especially for some resource-constrained countries; and the construction of the corridor may also be affected by geopolitical and security issues. Conflicts and geopolitical rivalries in some regions may threaten the stability and security of the corridor and affect its proper functioning. Due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will be difficult to improve the relationship between Israel and the Middle East in the original concept. Besides that, if India and the United States enter the Middle East as competitors, it will lead to an increase in regional instability. Moreover, Egypt’s opposition to the project is also an uncertainty factor. Still, the realization of the IMEC will largely serve as an alternative to the Suez route when it meets with problems and will further enhance economic cooperation between India and the Middle East.

Its realization depends on cooperation between states, international organizations and the private sector. If successful, the IMEC could become a key economic artery in the global trading system, not only benefiting the regions it directly connects, but also contributing to the stability and growth of the global economy through the potential scope for cooperation between the IMEC and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Additionally, for China’s development, the IMEC, as an important economic channel connecting Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, holds strategic significance for China’s development. China should fully grasp the development opportunities provided by the corridor while addressing challenges, promoting mutual cooperation with corridor countries, and achieving common development. By actively participating in the corridor’s construction, China can not only facilitate the transformation and upgrading of its domestic economy but also enhance its international influence, making a positive contribution to the construction of a community with a shared future for humanity.

As this is a forward-looking project, continuous monitoring of geopolitical, economic and environmental developments is essential to assess its feasibility, progress and impact. Despite all the challenges, the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor represents a common endeavor and vision of cooperation among the various participants. By overcoming difficulties and challenges, the corridor is expected to make a significant contribution to regional and global economic growth and prosperity, realizing the win-win goal and sustainable development.





Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:

Jun Qiao, Yitong Li, Size Gu and Mingxuan Huang

Mrs. Jun Qiao is student at the Anhui University, China; Yitong Li is student at the Hainan University, China; Size Gu is student the Shanghai University, and Mr. Mingxuan Huang is student at the Yunnan University, China. They are interns at MEPEI.

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