Mohammed Soliman, Director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, is a visionary advocate for geoeconomic and geopolitical integration among the Eurasian rim land’s coastal states.
Soliman views IMEC as an augmentation tool that complements existing trade routes, offering a more direct connection between India, the Gulf, and Europe. It facilitates the flow of goods and services, enhances supply chain redundancy, and reduces global economic risks.
Regarding challenges, Soliman acknowledges IMEC’s ambition but notes that some rail connections already exist between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The primary challenges lie in political implications and bureaucratic barriers rather than insurmountable physical obstacles.
Normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel is crucial for IMEC’s success. While progress is being made, political hurdles remain, including a US Senate vote on a defence agreement for Saudi Arabia.
IMEC could benefit Palestinians by attracting foreign investments in the West Bank, provided transportation infrastructure becomes part of the trade network. However, goods from Jordan could also enter Israel directly, bypassing the West Bank.
Soliman differentiates IMEC from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). IMEC is a multinational cooperative effort with transparency, while the BRI is centrally planned and often criticized for predatory practices. Both face challenges related to cross-regional coordination.
While Western motivations may include drawing India away from the INSTC route through Iran and Russia, India seeks diverse partnerships to advance its growth. Preventing Saudi and UAE partnerships with Iran may not be a primary goal for IMEC.
IMEC’s value is both geopolitical and geoeconomic. Countering China and Russia’s influence is primarily geopolitical for the US and EU. For India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the EU, it’s geoeconomic, focusing on deepening ties and regional integration without choosing sides in great power competition.
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