What is Ankara doing as India-Middle East-Europe corridor, signed during Delhi G20, bypasses Turkey?

Sushim Mukul
Sushim MukulSep 19, 2023 | 08:00

What is Ankara doing as India-Middle East-Europe corridor, signed during Delhi G20, bypasses Turkey?

China's investments in Turkey through the Belt and Road Initiative currently account for just 1.3% of the total. Photo: Getty.

The ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Trade Corridor (IMEC), whose Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by India on the G20 sidelines, as well as by the USA, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and the European Union (EU)'s Italy, France, and Germany, has not been well-received by another G20 member, Turkey.

The Turkish President had a strong reaction to the proposed route.


What is the IMEC?

  • The proposed trade route aims to transport finished goods from India through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, ultimately reaching European markets by sailing across the Mediterranean.

  • The plan not only aims to establish a "reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to complement existing maritime and road transport routes," but it also seeks to counter the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

Turkish reaction

  • According to a report published in the Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during his return flight from India, strongly criticized the proposal. He cited Turkey's historical importance in facilitating trade between Asia and Europe, dating back to the days of the Silk Route.
There cannot be a corridor without Türkiye. Türkiye is an important production and trade base. The most convenient line for east-to-west traffic has to pass through Türkiye.
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Expanding on Erdogan's concerns, Turkey's Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, hinted that geostrategic considerations were at play in the development of the corridor.
A trade route does not only mean meeting trade alone. It's also a reflection of geostrategic competition.
- Hakan Fidan, Turkey's Foreign Minister.
  • With this strategy, Turkey aims to maintain strong relations with a diverse set of global powers, including the US, EU, Russia, and China. In doing so, Turkey remains supportive of China's Belt and Road Initiative, albeit with limited involvement.

Is Turkey doing something too, to negate these developments?

Yes, it is.

Turkey's alternate plan

  • Turkey has been engaged in intensive negotiations for an alternative trade route known as the Iraq Development Road initiative.

  • In its pursuit, Turkey is collaborating with other regional stakeholders, including Iraq, Qatar, and the UAE, to make this project a reality.

  • The proposed $17 billion initiative would transport goods from the Grand Faw Port, located deep in the Persian Gulf in southern Iraq, into Southeastern Turkey.

  • This project also hinges on the development of a 1,200-kilometer high-speed railway and a parallel road network to the West, both of which are yet to be constructed.

  • The initial deadline for the seaport in question, whose first phase was scheduled to be completed this year, has been extended by a couple of years.

  • The first phase is now expected to be completed by 2028, with the entire project slated for completion by 2050.

How feasible is this plan?

  • Despite the attention the Iraq Development Road initiative has garnered, there are concerns about its feasibility due to financial and security challenges.

  • Turkey lacks the necessary financing for the project and is looking to receive support from the UAE and Qatar to build the required physical infrastructure. However, it remains unclear whether the West Asian partners see sufficient benefits for themselves in this endeavour.

  • Furthermore, security and stability issues in Iraq pose potential threats to both the construction and long-term viability of the project.

Is Turkey firm in its stance?

  • Since Erdogan has not yet taken a definitive stance, he may have the opportunity to present his case and negotiate his demands during his meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly.

  • This assumption is based on Turkey's significant geopolitical influence in the region, coupled with its recent efforts to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

As the world closely observes Turkey's evolving role in global trade, the outcome of these negotiations and Turkey's response to the changing dynamics of international commerce will be closely monitored.

Last updated: September 19, 2023 | 08:00
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