"One thing on which all partners agree is...": EAM S Jaishankar on India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor

BENGALURU: External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar underscored the significance of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) on Monday, stating that the countries involved in the project have unified their commitment to pursue this historic trade route despite escalating tensions in the Middle East.

"In the midst of the entire G-20, this was actually one of the big achievements. So it mattered enough for everybody to take a timeout and figure out how to do this. And even though there is a lot of turbulence in the Middle East after October 7, the one thing on which all the IMEC partners agree is, 'keep this steady. We'll get down to this,'" Jaishankar said, speaking at the dialogue with leading professionals in Karnataka's Bengaluru.

Jaishankar emphasised the geopolitical and geo-economic importance of IMEC, tracing its roots back to the historical connections between India, the Middle East, and Europe. He drew parallels to the journeys of explorers like Vasco da Gama, highlighting how the corridor symbolises a revival of ancient trade routes.

"One of the big geopolitical propositions today, geo-economic propositions today in the world, is something called the IMEC corridor, the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor. If you look at it, it's 500 years old. When Vasco da Gama came to Kerala," he said.

"He was coming from Europe to India. So we have to ask ourselves today, isn't it interesting that today the western world, the European world and the Arabian Peninsula in between is so interested in reviving this historical connect. Now I understand one part of it again, I go back to de-risking. You know, people don't want Suez Canal to become a choke point," he added.

In addition to IMEC, Jaishankar also shed light on the Trilateral Highway initiative, linking India, Myanmar, and Thailand. He noted the expansion of this project to include Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other regional players, highlighting the broader trend of connectivity initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region.

However, Jaishankar acknowledged that the Trilateral Highway project has faced obstacles, particularly due to the civil conflict in Myanmar.

"Now, that's west of us, there's actually another connectivity initiative, which unfortunately, again, has got stuck because of a different conflict, the civil conflict in Myanmar, which is what is called the trilateral highway. Initially, it was to take us from India, Myanmar, and Thailand. Today, Vietnam and the countries there Laos and Cambodia are coming, plugging into it now," the EAM said.

The ongoing turmoil in Myanmar, sparked by the military coup in 2021, continues to drive a steady stream of people seeking refuge along the 2,400-kilometre border shared by the two nations.

The complete capture of Myawaddy would be seen as a humiliating defeat for the military, which has suffered a string of battlefield losses in recent months that prompted rare criticism of its top brass by its supporters, according to Al Jazeera.


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