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Britain Missing In Action On India-Middle East-Europe Corridor

2023-11-29
Region : Western Europe, Economy,
Issue : Politics,
(FPRI) — During the G20 summit in September 2023, the United States and its closest allies and partners—the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates—announced the formation of the India-Middle East Europe Corridor (IMEC). The corridor is meant to reshape power dynamics in Eurasia, and bridge the middle geo-economic and geopolitical space between the Indo-Pacific and Europe, with a focus on West Asia. IMEC, comprising a multi-modal transportation system, digital infrastructure, and clean hydrogen pipelines, is poised to encounter numerous challenges such as geography, logistics, geopolitics, competition, and regional security.
Washington aims through the initiative to influence Eurasia’s economic and security dynamics by promoting minilateral trade and security networks in alignment with Western interests. Despite the worsening situation in Gaza, IMEC remains a priority for President Joe Biden. In his October 19 foreign policy speech, Biden underscored the significance of the corridor in promoting stability, creating jobs, and reducing conflicts. The inclusion of IMEC in Biden’s speech highlights its strategic importance within his foreign policy, indicating a future objective for Washington once there is a resolution to the deteriorating situation in Gaza.
Surprisingly, the United Kingdom—America’s closest geopolitical ally—does not appear to be participating in IMEC. Among European partners, particularly Paris, Berlin, and Rome, London stands out in the war in Gaza. From talks about Britishtroops stationed in Gaza after Israel’s war to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu floating the idea of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair becoming a humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, whether these talks turn into reality or not, they still reflect the value that London brings to the table even after the foreign policy consequences of Brexit. Still, the United Kingdom is missing in action from America’s biggest geo-economic initiative—IMEC, a strategic miscalculation that should be addressed.
Amid global competition, the United States actively works to unite North America, the European Union, and the United Kingdom to counterbalance China and Russia. Washington should invite London to the IMEC in order to improve Britain’s standing as it harmonizes UK interests with those of the United States and the European Union in a changing global environment. A strong British presence globally is critical for the United States, given London’s role in the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) security pact, support for Ukraine, and the UK-Japan-Italy sixth-generation stealth fighter project. Stability in Europe is a shared interest, making it important for the United States to encourage a more strategic UK-EU relationship. Ukraine’s war effort further solidified Washington’s position as a bridge builder between London and its European counterparts. IMEC could serve as a platform for Washington to foster structured dialogues between Brussels and London post-Brexit, potentially strengthening UK-EU relations. While the United Kingdom is clearly not seeking re-entry into the EU single market or customs union anytime soon, IMEC could facilitate closer ties.

IMEC presents an opportunity for Global Britain to strengthen its post-Brexit relationships with key partners—India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The economic growth of these West Asian nations has translated into increased political influence over Britain. For instance, in March 2022, then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss increasing oil production and addressing surging oil prices in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia. Johnson’s visit did not result in any pledges from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, symbolizing a relatively asymmetrical relationship, with the United Kingdom attaching more value to its ties with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh than they do with London.
The same dynamic exists with Delhi. After an impressive seven percent growth last year, India has become the world’s fifth-largest economy, surpassing the United Kingdom. Delhi is one of the clear winners in the current US-China Cold War, as India is emerging as the West’s preferred player in Eurasia, with deep strategic partnerships with the European Union and the United States. Its demographic size, geography, and ambitions make Delhi one of the most influential players in Eurasia. Moreover, while Britain actively seeks closer relations with the three nations—India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—may not be as proactive in pursuing stronger ties with the United Kingdom. Therefore, London’s potential involvement in IMEC is especially significant, as it strategically aligns the United Kingdom with these three nations within this ambitious transcontinental initiative.
To pursue “Global Britain” as a strategic course in the post-Brexit era, British policymakers should proactively seek entry into the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor by lobbying the United States and the IMEC nations. London, with its historical imperial role in shaping the trajectory of Eurasian rimland, possesses unique insights into this region.
What is Britain’s value proposition for joining the corridor, aside from its historical role and insights?
One key aspect is ensuring the stability of the Mediterranean component of the corridor. With territories and bases in Cyprus, the United Kingdom holds a position of influence in the Mediterranean region. Amidst rising tensions involving Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, Britain has chosen a diplomatic approach. Unlike Paris, which has adopted a more aggressive stance by signing a defense pact with Greece, London has pursued a more measured response. Building on the country’s good relations with Egypt and Turkey, two nations not part of the IMEC corridor, the United Kingdom could potentially serve as a stabilizing factor for the Mediterranean component of the corridor.
As the world’s geopolitical and economic center shifts eastward, the United Kingdom must actively seek its place in this evolving multipolar world, especially as the United States increasingly pivots to Asia. The India-Middle East-Europe Corridor offers London the potential to leverage its participation to foster economic growth and significantly contribute to the development of this ambitious transcontinental corridor. London’s participation in IMEC would signify its commitment to expanding its geopolitical, economic, and security influence, not only regionally but also within broader Eurasia.
After Brexit, as the United Kingdom aims to diversify its partnerships, IMEC offers a platform for exploring alternative infrastructure projects and economic ventures that align with London’s strategic interests and global positioning and help it address its current economic challenges.
About the author: Mohammed Soliman is the Director of the Strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program at the Middle East Institute. You can find him on Twitter at @Thisissoliman.
This article originally appeared in the Foreign Policy Research Institute
The views expressed above belong to the author(s)

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