(Advocate, Gauhati High Court)
On October 18, 2021, the four for eign ministers of four countries, viz, India, Israel, the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates, conceptualized the formation of a West Asian Quad Group, known as I2U2. I2 in I2U2 represents the countries of India and Israel, whereas U2 in I2U2 refers to the countries of USA and UAE. The basic strategy behind the formation of this group is to encourage mutual and joint investments in a few selected areas, which include water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security. In fact, recently, a few months back, the quadgroup announced the launch of a new joint space venture that can serve as a unique space-based tool for policymakers, institutions and entrepreneurs. The basic idea behind the launch of this joint space venture is to use the space-based observation data and capacities of the grouped countries to enable stakeholders to work on pertinent issues like environment and climate change. In a way, the Quad-Partner-Countries want to use the mutual resources available amongst the countries for the betterment of the humanity at large. The officials of I2U2 have also launched a website to not only enhance the public-private-partnership in several areas, but also to serve an invitation to private companies to submit projects to deal with some of the challenging issues that bother the globe at large.
The I2U2 group since its inception has kept its objectives very simple and people-centric, as it wants involvement of research and expertise to sync in a manner beneficial for all-around development of the globe. This can be understood from the statements coming from the side of the Indian Official, Dammu Ravi MEA Secretary of Economic Relations and the US Department of State. While the former commented that the website launched by the I2U2 Group shall allow businesses to collaborate and work in partnership in various projects across the globe, the later opined that enhancing public health, modernizing infrastructure and the creation of low carbon development pathways remain some of the key objectives of this group.
In reality, the formation of the I2U2 Group has direct correlation with the Abraham-Accords. Back in 2020, the Accords resulted in many countries like UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco to develop diplomatic ties with Israel. In fact, in this regard, the US played the key role of facilitating the normalization process. Similarly, India’s engagement in this group is the result of its revamping ties with the West Asia Region. In case of the Arab countries, India enhanced its ties with the countries in a diversified manner, being not solely dependent on oil and remittances for the same, although these determinants continue to remain important. The nation of India has also strategically deepened its ties with Israel as well as with the countries of Saudi Arabia and UAE, which further strengthens the prospect of the key role to be played by India in enhancing its diplomatic and economic ties with the countries in the landscape of West Asia. In fact, India also enjoys cordial relations with Iran and with projects like Chabahar Port and INSTC on the line; The nation of India could play a pivotal role, in terms of being the vital link between Iran and its adversaries. The grouping therefore can be a game-changer for the nation of India.
The I2U2 also provides the much needed platform to the nation of India to take up a more active leadership role in consideration of the geopolitics of West Asia while balancing between autonomy and national interest. In this regard, in the first virtual summit itself PM Modi commented: “From this first summit. I2U2 has established a positive agenda. We have identified various joint projects in various sectors and prepared a roadmap. By mobilizing our mutual strength, capital, expertise and markets, we can speed up our agenda and make important contributions to the global economy. Our cooperative framework is also a good model for practical cooperation amid increasing global uncertainty.” In fact, the grouping has also benefitted India in the sense that talks have already circulated of the UAE investing US$ 2 billion for the purpose of developing hi-tech integrated food parks in India. This will not only give a big boost to the agriculture system of India, but also ensure critical food security to Israel, UAE and their regional partners as well. As such, India’s role in this I2U2 grouping can be really crucial for the nation as well as for that of the countries of the West Asian region, more particularly the member countries of I2U2.
In fact, if strategically analysed, this grouping of countries in the form of I2U2 brings into the limelight the combination of certain key facets: The technology of Israel, the market of India, the finance of UAE and the industrial complex of US. However, although the grouped countries are on the same boat in terms of achieving mutual objectives in a collaborative manner, but the grouped countries somewhat lay on two different platforms in terms of their ideological viewing. The grouped countries have different perspectives on the existing policy and order, based on which the world operates, and most importantly, while India and US view China as a threat, Israel and UAE share warm economic relations with China. Irrespective of the criticism, the I2U2 group, if works in the manner it is supposed to, then significant geopolitical changes and infrastructure development can be witnessed in the West Asia Region. The I2U2 Group also hopes to counter China’s growing geopolitical and economic influence upon the world.
‘Minilaterals’ such as I2U2 have significantly become popular because of the significant disturbances in supply chains during the Covid-crisis, the global dilemma that occurred during the Russia-Ukraine-Crisis and more so to diversify global manufacturing capacities away from China. Therefore, the execution of the objectives of the grouping known as I2U2 can bring about significant changes in the globe in terms of mutuality, cooperation and diplomacy, but India’s entry to the same can be regarded as another feather to the cap of the nation’s diplomacy.