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India-Middle East-Europe Corridor: Expert gives 3 reasons for Turkiye inclusion

September 21, 2023 at 8:00 pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the international press conference held within the scope of G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi, India on September 10, 2023 [Arif Hüdaverdi Yaman – Anadolu Agency]

Including Turkiye in the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) will have more benefits than risks, especially in the backdrop of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to an international relations expert.

The three main reasons are logistical and economic factors, in addition to ease in commerce, all of which could make the country a “natural” part of the project, Ali Oguz Dirioz, an associate professor at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology, told Anadolu.

Running a corridor that does not benefit from the advantages that Turkiye will provide to world trade and international supply chains will not be easy, neither economically nor commercially

he said.

He said Turkiye provides many advantages for global trade and international supply chains with its ports, airlines, railways, experience in logistics transportation and ability to produce a large number of products.

“It is quite interesting, Turkiye’s exclusion from the preliminary route,” he said, referring to the planned route of the corridor announced during the recent G-20 summit in India.

READ: IMEC will fail to rival China Silk Road by neglecting key developing nations

“Nevertheless, today we see that Turkiye is already on the natural route of various corridors, projects and routes,” he said, emphasizing the country’s strategic intercontinental position.

“I think that Turkiye will naturally take part in all these routes. “The benefits of not including Turkiye in such routes, both in economic and political senses, are quite miniscule,” Dirioz said.

Need for positive diplomacy

He underlined that diplomacy will play a huge role in Turkiye’s possible inclusion in the IMEC.

“Turkiye should be constructive and positive rather than critical, and emphasize the possible advantages of its inclusion in the IMEC,” he said, adding that the country should also underline that it will be “naturally” included in the route.

Dirioz said the proposed corridor is still in its infancy and the planned setup is still very new and preliminary.

“Rather than pointing to the faulty structure of the project, Turkiye should constructively focus on the advantages of being on the route of this corridor,” he said.

“Turkiye is on the path of many trade routes that will pass through the region, with its supply chains in global trade, production, services, geostrategic location, industry and manpower, important logistics and infrastructure capabilities,” Dirioz added.

Clash of corridors

“Of course, corridors and trade routes may have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the Caspian Sea is a natural obstacle to the Middle Corridor prioritised by Turkiye,” he said, referring to the Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor Initiative that begins in Turkiye and passes through the Caucasus region via Georgia and Azerbaijan, crossing the Caspian Sea, traversing Central Asia and reaching China.

The Middle Corridor is considered to be one of the most important components of efforts to revive the ancient Silk Road.

“The Middle Corridor’s further development requires the development of shipping and pipelines on the Caspian Sea, rather than Russia and Iran – both subject to various sanctions,” Dirioz said.

READ: Erdogan says no India-Mideast- EU economic corridor without Turkiye

The expert also said that the land route of China’s BRI is “almost under the monopoly of a single country” and passes through Russia and Iran, which are sanctioned by the West.

“The IMEC project is an initiative that will take a very long time to develop, and it is not yet clear how the section between Saudi Arabia and Israel will develop through Jordan. “Political stability may be an important factor here, too,” he said.

“All of these alternatives have costs and risks, but considering Turkiye’s critical contributions to international trade and supply chains in the past … the logical option is to include Turkiye.”

Examples of EastMed

Dirioz pointed out that the EastMed pipeline project, which also sought to exclude Turkiye, has been a failure so far, especially after the US withdrew its support, saying it is not an “economically viable or environmentally friendly project”.

I think Turkiye will naturally be involved. “Several countries tried to realise the EastMed project without Turkiye, but the project has not come to fruition,” he said.

“EastMed has not yet been realised because projects that will pass through Turkiye are more advantageous.”

Dirioz further added that the inclusion of Turkiye in the project is “possible”.

“It may be possible to get involved by reaching an agreement with both Israel and Greece,” he said, adding that, despite political challenges, Ankara’s economic ties with Israel and Greece “were always good.”

“Or through meetings with the IMEC countries and the US, because the US is one of the important supporters of this project, as it wants to prevent China’s monopoly,” he said, referring to the BRI.

“Moves of BRICS countries will also be decisive in this rivalry,” he said.

READ: New Mideast corridor would include trains to India – Delhi says

Turkiye’s long-time goal

“It has been Turkiye’s strategic goal for many years, since the 1990s, to have a key and central position in East-West trade and global supply chain,” Dirioz underlined.

He said it was likely the IMEC will end up passing through Turkiye “and become more prosperous in economic and geopolitical terms, especially with the increase in trade volume by strengthening ties with India and the Indo-Pacific region, which is expected to grow by “5 per cent to 6 per cent on average, according to projections.”

“Moreover, it is important for Turkiye’s development and prosperity to be a trade, logistics and energy centre between Central Asian countries, Africa, Europe and the Indo-Pacific region,” he added.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.