What is the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, and How Will it Impact Trade?

What is the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor? 

India proposes the India Middle East Europe economic corridor to the Middle East and European countries to enhance economic connectivity and integration. The primary objective of this corridor is to promote trade, investment, and infrastructure development along the route, which will ultimately stimulate the economic growth of the participating countries. 

  • The India Middle East Europe economic corridor envisions a trade and infrastructure network that spreads from India to Europe. The corridor will travel through Middle Eastern countries and connect the Indian subcontinent to the European continent.

  • The India Middle East Europe economic corridor route includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Greece.

  • The corridor holds significance by providing an alternative trade route to traditional sea routes that could be affected by geopolitical tensions or disruption. The main aim is to diversify trade and reduce dependency on the existing transportation channels.

The project: India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor

IMEE corridor is a significant infrastructure initiative and is part of the broader partnership for global infrastructure and investment (PGII). The connectivity between the law and middle-income countries will be fasted by integrating them with two main corridors: the East corridor and the northern corridor.

  • East Corridor: This corridor will connect India to the Arabian Gulf, which involves the development of a transportation network including railways, ship-to-rail connections, and road transport routes. The purpose is to facilitate the movement of goods and people between India and Gulf countries to promote trade and economic cooperation.

  • Northern corridor: The corridor focuses on connecting the Gulf countries to Europe. It is the continuation of the east corridor and further enhances connectivity by extending transportation in infrastructure such as railways and roads into Europe.

  • Additional infrastructure: The corridor includes other crucial infrastructure developments like electricity, hydrogen pipelines, and high-speed data cables. This corridor will focus on the modern aspects of infrastructure like energy transmission, clean energy, and high-speed data communication.

Countries involved

India, the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, the European Union, Italy, France, and Germany are a few countries interested in developing the IMEE corridor.


Cost involved

The estimated cost of developing each of the Indian Middle East Europe economic corridor routes ranges from $3 billion to $8 billion. It involves a substantial financial investment for this infrastructure project. However, the cost of infrastructure would vary depending on the length of the root, the complexity of the construction, the terrain, technological requirements, and the quality of infrastructure to be built.

Completion date

The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor is scheduled to be completed by 2049. However, many factors can delay the project. 

How the IMEE corridor is a geopolitical game-changer? 

The IMEE has significant geopolitical implications.

  • Outsmarting China's BRI: The IMEE corridor is a potential counter to China's Belt and Road initiative in the Eurasian region. It is a broader competition for influence and connectivity in the region between the United States and its partners and China. The aim is to counterbalance China's growing economic and political influence, especially in the region with historical ties to the United States.

  • Fostering unity and Understanding:  The corridor holds the potential to strengthen ties and integration across continents and civilizations. By connecting India, the Middle East, and Europe, the corridor offers strategic opportunities for the United States to maintain its influence and traditional partners over China's increasing presence in the region.

  • Unlock connectivity barriers over Pak's mainland: The corridor bypasses Pakistan, which has previously exited control over India's overland connectivity to the west. The corridor facilitates trade and movement between India and Europe without the need for Pakistan's involvement.

  • Building relationships with the Arabian Peninsula: The corridor establishes connectivity and elevates political and strategic links with the nations in the Arabian region. It helps India to expand its influence in the Arabian Peninsula.

  • India's influence in Africa: The corridor could further align with the United States and European Union's plan to develop a Trans-African corridor, which can boost the engagement of India with Africa and ultimately increase India's Geo political influence in the African continent.

Is the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor Dead? 

Israel is an important country participating in IMEC, currently engaged in war with Hamas. Although countries like UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco have started supporting Israel, many people in these Arab countries still support Palestinians. These countries might back off to support Israel if there are more civilian casualties in Gaza, especially regarding the project.

  • Haifa is an integral part of the corridor close to Lebanon. Lebanon is home to Hezbollah, which supports Iran. This could worsen the situation if it gets involved in the conflict to help Hamas.

  • The investment for such big projects often comes from public money and private investments, where private investors contribute the lion's share. Such a situation might be scary for these investors to invest.

What happens to IMEC now? 

Rescuing the corridor from the Israel and Palestinian war is quite challenging. 
The single option that remains is to change the route to go through Iraq and Turkey, which would involve Ankara, but there are also several obstacles behind this option.

  • First, the infrastructure of Iraq is relatively poor because of the involvement in conflicts for several years and, therefore, would be more expensive than the original plan. 

  • Eastern Turkey faces security issues due to the Kurdish insurgency, and this new route makes investors hesitant to invest.

  • Apart from these, India's relationship with Turkey is not so strong, and Turkey would create more problems for India to favor Pakistan.

How does India-led IMEC counter China's BRI?

India was worried about China's Belt and Road initiative because it includes a project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that goes through an area India claims as its own but is controlled by Pakistan. It harms the sovereignty of India, and therefore, the IMEC project could help India connect with Europe and the Middle East without running into territorial disputes.

  • The United States and the European Union support the corridor because they see it as a way to balance China's growing influence. The United States wants India to have less involvement with Russia and Iran.

  • The Middle East is important in the BRI and IMEC plans, so the US is getting more involved because of China's growing influence.

  • It is also notable that when the corridor was introduced, China was absent, and it seems clear that the corridor is a strategy to challenge China's ambitious Belt and Road project, which was started in 2013. 

  • Italy, part of China's BRI, supported the IMEC instead.

Challenges Ahead for IMEC Corridor? 

The ambitious project of India faces several challenges.

  • Road mapping: Creating a corridor that involves multiple modes of transport, including road, rail, and sea, which travel through different countries requires complex logistical planning and coordination. Determining the most efficient and cost-effective routes and ensuring seamless connectivity is also challenging.

  • Incomplete rail links: Significant gaps exist in the rail network, particularly in the Middle Eastern region. Completing these rail links will require more construction efforts and investments.

  • Coordination: The corridor involves several countries with diverse interests, legal systems, and administrative procedures, which amplifies the coordination problem among these countries.

  • Continuous opposition and competition: The Suez Canal is the busiest sea route in the world, and IMEC is a direct challenge to this route, which would fear the concerned countries. The countries would oppose and diplomatically challenge the corridor as it would impact the existing trade route.

  • Financing: The corridor requires substantial investment, and estimating and securing sufficient financing to construct such massive infrastructure would be unpredictable. Identifying the funding sources and ensuring long-term financial stability for its continuous development is also quite tricky.

How does IMEC benefit India's economy? 

India Transporting goods to Europe via the Suez Canal takes about 18 days. The new proposed corridor would decrease the trade time to 10 days, making it 40% faster. European Union is India's second-largest trading partner, and the agreement will help boost the trade between India and the European Union. India will also get access to secured Supply Chain and Food Security. 

The development of rail infrastructure would increase the employment opportunities of the manufacturing sector in India. 

The hydrogen pipeline will enhance trade opportunities for energy products such as green hydrogen that could lead to Clean Energy trade.


IMEC is an ambitious project of India that connects several important countries and aims to create a borderless economy. The critical feature of this corridor is that it respects the sovereignty of nations. It is designed to serve the benefit of all the regions and not of a single country. The corridor will promote trade investment in infrastructure development and help the participating countries' economic growth. The corridor provides an alternative trade route to the traditional sea route, aiming to diversify trade and reduce dependency on the existing transportation channel.

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Win Harrison 20 Oct, 2023


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