NSA Doval’s Jeddah visit was to discuss major joint infra project with US, UAE, Saudi

New Delhi/Jeddah: Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s meeting in Jeddah with his US and Emirati counterparts and the Saudi Crown Prince was to discuss a possible major joint infrastructure project to connect Gulf and Arab countries via a network of railways that would also be connected to India via shipping lanes from ports in the region, according to a report.

According to Axios, the project is one of the key initiatives the White House wants to push in the Middle East amid Beijing’s growing influence in the region. The Middle East is a key part of China’s Belt and Road vision.

According to the Saudi Press Agency readout of the meeting, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, received on Sunday evening the Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi, National Security Advisor of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan; the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; and the National Security Advisor of India Ajit Doval.

“During the meeting, they discussed means to strengthen relations and ties between the three countries in a way that enhances growth and stability in the region.”

The mega infra project was one of many topics discussed during the visit.

The idea for the new initiative came up during talks that were held over the last 18 months in another forum called I2U2, which includes the US, Israel, the UAE and India, Axios said, quoting sources.

The I2U2 forum was established in late 2021 to discuss strategic infrastructure projects in the Middle East.

“Nobody said it out loud but it was about China from day one,” a former senior Israeli official who was directly involved in early discussions on the issue told Axios.

Israel raised the idea of connecting the region through railways during the I2U2 meetings over the last year. Part of the idea was to use India’s expertise on such big infrastructure projects, the former Israeli official said.

The Biden administration expanded on the idea to include Saudi Arabia’s participation.

The initiative would include connecting Arab countries in the Levant and the Gulf via a network of railways that will also connect to India through seaports in the Gulf.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan hinted at this initiative during his speech last Thursday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “If you remember nothing else from my speech, remember I2U2, because you will be hearing more about it as we go forward,” he said.

Sullivan said the fundamental notion is to connect South Asia to the Middle East to the U.S. “in ways that advance our economic technology and diplomacy.”

He also said a number of projects are already underway “and some new exciting steps that we’re looking forward to undertaking in the months ahead.”

“A more integrated, interconnected Middle East empowers our allies and partners, advances regional peace and prosperity, and reduces the resource demands on the U.S. in this region over the long term without sacrificing our fundamental interests or our involvement in the region,” he said.

While Israel is not part of this initiative at the moment, it could be added to it in the future if efforts to further normalize relations in the region make progress, Axios said.


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