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Can Development Road Project Quench Global Thirst for Alternative Trade Routes?

© Sputnik / Ahmed Mahmood / Go to the mediabankVessels Waiting to Pass Through the Suez Canal, Egypt, 2021
Vessels Waiting to Pass Through the Suez Canal, Egypt, 2021 - Sputnik India, 1920, 25.04.2024
The Development Road Project would serve as an alternative to the Suez Canal in both the medium term (about five years) and the long term (about ten years), according to experts.
As the Red Sea and Middle East regions face increasing hurdles, there's been a noticeable uptick in interest in alternative trade routes such as the India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) and Suez Canal.
A recent development signals a potential game-changer: Iraq, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have joined forces to strengthen trade links between India and Europe through the establishment of a trade corridor, according to a memorandum signed on Monday.
Launched last year, Iraq's ambitious $17 billion project aims to link a major commodity port on its southern coast to the Turkish border via extensive rail and road infrastructure.
The 1,200-kilometre Development Road project integrates road and rail networks with the primary aim of positioning Iraq as a key transit hub between Asia and Europe.

Exploring Alternate Routes: Diversifying IMEC & Suez Canal Passage

“In the aftermath of occupation, Iraq's imperative for reconstruction necessitates substantial investment in infrastructure, particularly in rail and road transportation. In order to transform into a viable transit corridor, efforts are underway to establish a trade route between India and Europe via the UAE and QatarHassan Beheshtipour, Political Analyst, Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies (IRAS) told Sputnik India.

The Development Road Project, according to Beheshtipour, “holds the promise of fostering economic cooperation regionally and could contribute positively to countering the influence of extremist factions in Iraq. The economic resurgence of Iraq and Syria, despite their ongoing crises, stands to benefit from such initiatives”.

“At the core of this strategic initiative lies Turkey's pivotal role, with its ambition focused on navigating through Iraqi Kurdistan. This move seeks to consolidate Turkey's authority in the region, enhancing its influence over the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)” Dr Bahram Amirahmadian, Eurasian Analyst told Sputnik India.

The corridor's route through the volatile territory of Iraqi Kurdistan, Amirahmadian pointed out, "raises concerns about the security of the passage, similar to the challenges faced by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In addition, the corridor, which was previously delineated as the IMEC during the G20 summit in India, is facing delays in implementation due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict".
Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that "there can be no trade corridor" between the East and the Middle East or Europe "without Turkey" - in response to the announcement of the IMEC at the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Securing Regional Stability: Imperative for Comprehensive Cooperation in Indian Ocean & Middle East

The Development Road Project, Beheshtipour assured that it “would serve as an alternative to the Suez Canal within both a medium-term (approximately five years) and long-term (around ten years) timeframe. However, it cannot entirely replace the Suez Canal for India due to its essential role as a maritime route”.

“Sea trade typically offers greater cost efficiency compared to land-based transportation such as roads and railways. Nevertheless, having multiple routes enhances India's strategic flexibility, enabling it to adapt to diverse circumstances and make varied decisions,” Beheshtipour underlined.
In the context of the Indo-Pacific strategy, Amirahmadian underscores that “regional players, notably India, possess significant leverage to assert their political intentions. Iraq grapples with instability, and Turkey aims to enhance its economic gains and bolster its geopolitical standing. Meanwhile, Qatar strives to lessen reliance on the Gulf Cooperation Council and distance itself from Saudi’s influence”.
“Neglecting comprehensive security measures and regional cooperation agreements between the Indian Ocean and the Middle East while discussing geopolitical changes might seem overly optimistic. India's influence on the future Middle East economy hinges on crafting a new, inclusive agreement with Indian Ocean nations and key Middle Eastern stakeholders like Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq,” Beheshtipour indicated.
The FESCO Diomid container ship, the largest one in the history of the far eastern shipping, belonging to Far-Eastern Shipping Company, OJSC, unloaded in the port of Vladivostok - Sputnik India, 1920, 19.01.2024
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