New York, July 14 (IANS) Launching the I2U2, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on Thursday that working together, India, Israel, the US and the United Arab Emirates will make an important contribution at the global level in a time of uncertainties as it takes on an economic and humanitarian role.
The Middle East Quad, known as I2U2 derived from the initials of the four nations, took off at a summit in Jerusalem of Modi and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan participating remotely and Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid and US President Joe Biden in person.
“This truly is a meeting of strategic partners. We are all good friends as well, and there are a lot of similarities in our approach and in our interests,” Modi said in his speech in Hindi.
The Israel Prime Minister’s office said that the leaders decided to establish a $2 billion food corridor between India and the UAE using Israeli technology and capabilities and to start a $300 million 300-megawatt wind and solar energy storage project in India with Israeli, UAE, and American technologies.
Biden said: “India is a major, major food producer in the world. Think of the beneficial impacts this will have on India’s farmers and the people suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the region.”
By jointly using their technical expertise and mobilising private sector investment, they will help India reach its climate and energy goal of 500 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030, he said.
Modi said the I2U2 summit has established a “positive agenda” and identified six areas for joint action: water, energy, transport, space, health, and food security.
Mobilising “the mutual strengths of our countries that is capital expertise and markets”, they can make a contribution to the global economy”, he said.
Lapid said: “The world is watching this meeting. This shows that something special is happening here — a new kind of economic and regional cooperation — cooperation that is more flexible and better adapted to the problems we face.”
“I would like to emphasise: This is not a philanthropic group. We want to change the world for the better, but we are also creating relative advantages for our countries, for our businesses, for our science sector,” he said.
Zayed said: “Our countries do not share a geographical border, yet they converge for peace, and their joint action to achieve wellbeing and prosperity.”
With several political differences among the four, they generally sidestepped political and strategic issues with their joint statement only mentioning the Abraham Accords, which was reached under former President Donald Trump to normalise relations between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain.
“We reaffirm our support for the Abraham Accords and other peace and normalisation arrangements with Israel,” the statement said.
Their statement also spoke of a bridge between the Middle East and South Asia.
“We welcome the economic opportunities that flow from these historic developments, including for the advancement of economic cooperation in the Middle East and South Asia, and in particular for the promotion of sustainable investment amongst the I2U2 partners,” it said.
It also said that India expressed interest in joining the United States, the UAE, and Israel in the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate initiative (AIM for Climate).
Asked about the launch of the I2U2, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s Spokesperson Farhan Haq said: “It’s always a good and encouraging sign when different countries work together in terms of cooperative efforts, and we hope that they will be fruitful and cooperative.”
The I2U2 is an attempt to replicate in a different environment the Indo-Pacific Quad of India, the US, Japan and Australia, the goal of which is developing a bulwark of democracies against China.
In the Middle East, the I2U2 does not face as direct a threat from China, and India, in particular, does not share the same approach to Russia or to Iran.
Unlike in the Indo-Pacific where China poses a direct military threat, in the Middle East, the challenge is from its predatory Belt and Road Initiative.
In strategic terms, the I2U2 has a more generalised wariness of China’s influence in the region and in Africa and other developing countries, which it will seek to deal with economic and humanitarian assistance.
The Quad has also taken the road of providing help to countries in the Indo-Pacific with a plan to provide Covid-19 vaccines as the current main focus, which can be a model for other types of assistance programmes tailored to the region.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed @arulouis)