US President Joe Biden (R) and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) attend an official welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 22 June 2023. EFE-EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

New Delhi, India (EFE).-

The US, India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are discussing a major infrastructure project to establish connections between Gulf and Arab countries while linking South Asia with the Middle East through shipping lanes.

According to a diplomatic source, the four partner countries are engaged in negotiations. However, it remains uncertain whether the project will be formally announced during the G20 summit taking place in New Delhi over the weekend.

Axios, an American news website, citing two anonymous sources, has reported that leaders from these countries are likely to unveil the deal on Saturday during the G20 summit.

“If the four countries finalize the negotiations in the next two days, their leaders will sign a memorandum of understanding outlining the parameters of the project,” the website said.

“The project is one of the key initiatives the White House is pushing in the Middle East as China’s influence in the region grows.”

The project’s objective is to establish a network of railways connecting Gulf and Arab countries and further linking them with India through shipping lanes originating from ports in the region.

Asked about the Axios report, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan declined to confirm that an agreement had been reached but emphasized that the initiative has received significant efforts and investment from the US and other nations.

“We believe that connectivity from India across the Middle East to Europe is incredibly important and would bring a significant number of economic benefits, as well as strategic benefits, to all of the countries involved,” Sullivan told reporters accompanying US President Joe Biden aboard Air Force One.

Sullivan had previously traveled to Saudi Arabia and held discussions with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman on May 7.

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According to a White House statement, he also met with his counterparts from the UAE and India “to advance their shared vision of a more secure and prosperous Middle East region interconnected with India and the world.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) receives the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman, upon his arrival in New Delhi. EFE/FILE Harish Tyagi

Should this project materialize, it would reshape trade relations between the Persian Gulf countries and South Asia, while also serving as a triumph for the US in its efforts to counter China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, through which Beijing has funded multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects worldwide.

China has notably increased its influence in the Middle East in recent years, facilitating a reconciliation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March to restore diplomatic relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to host world leaders, including his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, in Beijing in October for a forum centered on the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. EFE


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