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FM Sitharaman admits Israel-Hamas war poses challenge to plan for India-Middle East-Europe corridor

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NEW DELHI : Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman admitted on Wednesday that the Israel-Hamas war poses a challenge to the proposed India-Middle East-Europe Connectivity Corridor (IMEC) which is aimed at improving connectivity and cutting emissions.

The agreement on the IMEC project was signed at a G20 meeting in New Delhi in September this year under India’s presidency. The rail and ports corridor is envisaged to pass through Israel linking the Middle East and South Asia, and part of the US strategy to counter China’s Belt and Road push on global infrastructure.

The corridor “is not without its geopolitical challenges and the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza is a worrying manifestation of these,” Sitharaman said at Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue 2023 here.

However, she maintained that the project would be a win-win situation for all stakeholders as it will put in place a more efficient system of transportation that will reduce logistics costs, increase economic unity, create more jobs and lower carbon emissions.

The IMEC will be predominantly maritime in nature. This will connect Indian ports such as Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority in Mumbai, Mundra and Kandla (Gujarat), with West Asia’s ports including Fujairah and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, and Saudi Arabia’s Dammam and Ghuwaifat ports.

There will also be a rail segment that will continue the IMEC and provide connection to the Saudi Arabian cities of Haradh and Al Haditha, onward to the port of Haifa in Israel.

“The final segment, which some call the Northern Corridor, will once again be a maritime segment connecting the port of Haifa to the Greek port of Piraeus and there on to Europe,” Sitharaman added.

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