India, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the European Union on Saturday announced a historic agreement to soon launch a mega India-Middle East-Europe shipping and railway connectivity corridor.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement for the ambitious project on the sidelines of the G20 Summit and was flanked by US President US Biden, Saudi Arabia Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman and leaders of the EU.
This is a historic and first-of-its-kind initiative on cooperation on connectivity and infrastructure involving India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, EU, France, Italy, Germany and the US.
Speaking after the launch, PM Modi said, "I cordially welcome you all at this event. I am very happy to co-chair this event with my friend President Joe Biden. Today we all have seen the conclusion of a historic and important agreement. In the coming days, it will be an effective medium of economic integration between India, South Asia, and Europe".
Speaking at the Bharat Mandapam venue of the G20 Summit here, PM Modi said the mega-deal will give a sustainable direction to connectivity and sustainability across the world.
He also congratulated all the leaders who were part of the connectivity corridor.
"Strong connectivity and infrastructure are the foundation of the development of human civilisation. India has given this issue utmost priority during its course of development. Along with physical infrastructure, unprecedented investments are being made in social, economic and financial infrastructure as well," PM Modi said.
He added, "Through this, we are laying a strong foundation for a developed India. As a reliable partner, India has set up infrastructure projects in the field of railways, energy, and technology partnerships, among the nations of the Global South. We have laid special emphasis on a demand-driven and transparent approach".
The Prime Minister further stressed respecting sovereignty and regional integrity and stated that connectivity between different countries not only increases business but also trust between them.
"We believe connectivity between different countries increases not only business but trust between them. By promoting connectivity initiative, we need to ensure we stick to philosophies, that is, adhesion to international rules, respect for all nations' sovereignty and regional integrity," PM Modi said.
The infrastructure deal is expected to connect countries in the Middle East via a network of railways. The network will also connect to India through shipping lanes from ports in the region.
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer had earlier said that "The deal will benefit low and middle-income countries in the region, and enable a critical role for the Middle East in global commerce. We see this as having a high appeal to the countries involved, and also globally because it is transparent because it is a high standard because it is not coercive".
Delving more on the initiative, Finer noted it was not just a railway project but more of a shipping and railway project.
"It is not just the Railway project, it is a shipping and Railway project and it is important for people to understand how expansive, ambitious and ground-breaking this will be" Finer added.
Finer termed this to-be-built project as "affirmative positive" aimed at serving the underserved.
"The way we see the infra project, it is an affirmative positive project. It has appeal for countries underserved by infra. We are not asking countries to make a zero-sum choice. We have seen other efforts that are not as ambitious, we feel good about the contrast of what we provide," White House Deputy National Security Advisor said.
Addressing the the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII) and India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor programme at Bharat Mandapam US President Joe Biden said, "This is a real big deal. I want to thank PM. One Earth, One Family, One Future that's the focus of this G 20 Summit. And in many ways, it's also the focus of this partnership that we're talking about today. Building sustainable, resilient infrastructure, making quality infrastructure investments and creating a better future..."
Speaking at the same forum, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammed Bin Salman said, "... We look forward to the integration of the initiative and the Economic Corridor project which is announced in this meeting. I would like to thank those who worked with us to reach this founding step to establish this important economic corridor..."
French President Emmanuel Macron said, "… So now with the European Commission here, we commit to invest alongside with you on this road. And this is a very important project from Asia through Middle East to Europe to offer big opportunities and connect people.
"But our intention is as well to make it real and to be sure that after this commitment we have concrete results and especially to have the first global green trade road meaning having net zero transport infrastructure..." Macron said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, "More large-scale projects are seeing the light...We are presenting two of them today. First the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor...It will be the most direct connection to date between India, the Arabian Gulf and Europe...This is also the spirit of the second project we announce today the Trans African Corridor...