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I2U2 – New Formations for better Growth

I2U2 stands for India, Israel, UAE, and the USA. In October 2021, a meeting of the foreign ministers of the four member countries took place when India’s External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar visited Israel. At that time, the grouping was formerly called the ‘International Forum for Economic Cooperation.’ The aim of I2U2 is to expand economic and political cooperation in the Middle East and West Asia through trade, climate change, energy cooperation, and coordination on other vital shared interests as key instruments of such economic and political cooperation. The four-nation framework is meant to foster support and cooperation. The countries have identified six areas of cooperation with an aim to encourage joint investments in water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security.

Origins of I2U2 can be traced back to September 2020, wherein Israel, UAE, and Bahrain signed Abraham Accords, which was brokered by the United States and has subsequently led to normalizing relations between Israel and several other Arab countries. I2U2 was first framed in October 2021 to manage issues concerning oceanic security, infrastructure, and transport under the name of the International Forum for Economic Cooperation. The point was to bridle the remarkable cluster of capacities, information, and experience of each of the four countries and prompting the development of I2U2 at last.

 One of the prime regions of cooperation of I2U2 is Security as this helps incentivize the four nations within the framework of these new groupings to explore security cooperation. Technology is also an important aspect sine each of these countries is a technological hub, pioneering particularly in biotechnology. Israel is called a Startup Nation already and India has also been developing a widening startup ecosystem of its own. UAE also recognizes that the future of the world economy will not be built around hydrocarbons, oil, and gas and it needs to work significantly in the technology sector too. In May this year, an undertaking was dispatched in which Ecoppia, an Israeli organization, would make robotic solar-based cleaning innovation in India, implied for a venture in the UAE. Joint endeavors by these four nations become essential to handle and decrease the outcomes of food security and wellbeing. As per the 2020 report by ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,’ around 14% of India’s total populace is undernourished. One of the areas of special concerns includes Trade and Connectivity as I2U2 can revitalize and re-energize the system of trade and commerce among the four countries. After the U.S., UAE is the second-largest export destination of India. I2U2 will help India’s undertaking alongside UAE and Saudi Arabia to build a network hallway that runs from India to the Arabian bay across the Arabian landmass to Israel and Jordan and from there to the European Union thereby enabling effective connectivity. If this corridor is completed, India can significantly cut the cost of moving a container from one country to another

Until now, India’s West Asian policies have primarily insisted on keeping its bilateral relationships separate. This is the first step to bring together those relationships with UAE and Israel and merge them. Further, India will take advantage of the Abraham Accords to deepen engagement with Israel without risking its ties with the UAE and the other Arab states. India is a massive consumer market. It is a frontline producer of high-tech and highly sought-after goods that will also attract investors from West Asia, providing exponential benefits for the market. I2U2 will help India’s international presence, particularly in West Asia, and it will set up a good foundation for India to emerge as a world player. This factor would further help in strengthening the Indian diaspora, also leading to increases in remittances.

According to a U.N. report on global movement, in 2017, internal settlements from the Gulf into India were 38 billion U.S. dollars. There are around 8 to 9 million Indians in West Asia and 2.5 million in the United Arab Emirates alone who serve as India’s goodwill ambassadors. Indian citizen groups in West Asia fundamentally affect the Indian economy through internal settlements and remittances. Further participation with West Asian nations through I2U2 will upgrade internal remittances.

Such arrangement come with a lot of challenges and some of the Challenges Associated with I2U2 concern Israel as the Abraham accords have constituted a significant breakthrough in the Arab-Isreali issue, however, the other regional states are still reluctant to maintain friendly bilateral relations with Israel. Also, at the grassroots level, the Israel-Palestine conflict is still a significant area of concern. Internal conflicts of the Arab World can also be a significant source of concern as the Shia-Sunni struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia is also going on, which is additionally going through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. The internal conflicts in the Arab world may lead to the significant partners of India, like Iran splitting from the former into another group. The developing situation might lead to the creation of two groups: China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, while India, Israel, the USA, and UAE are likely to be on the other side. China’s expanding role in the Middle East is another issue which India must look into due to China’s dominating presence in the region which seems to be ever expanding. For Israel, China has expanded Israel’s Haifa port. Moreover, China has made more than a 1.5-billion-dollar investment in Haifa. China is also building the Ashdod port, the only port Israel has in the Mediterranean. UAE was one of the first countries that got Huawei’s (Chinese MNC) assistance for its 5G project.

The I2U2 is a mutually beneficial suggestion for every one of the nations concerned, especially India’s requirements to assume a more active role, all things considered. India should explore this region which is brimming with landmines, circumspectly in light of the fact that the primary interests of India include energy security, food security, laborers, trade, investment venture, and oceanic security.

Another way forward is to reassure other partners in West Asia in a context that the new arrangement is not aimed at them. For India, Iran is necessary for the current situation in Afghanistan. India should manage the difficulties both carefully and decisively around here. Egypt has well-disposed relations with every one of the four nations in this union. However, it should be consoled that it will not be affected monetarily or strategically. Mutual Cooperation among the four countries is necessary as there are difficulties in managing the complexities of the West Asian region. Balancing the rival countries diplomatically and strategically to maintain friendly relations can be done through mutual cooperation among the four countries.


Sargam Choudhary

Research Intern at CPRGIndia