I2U2 Grouping: Transformational Force for Global Good and India’s Strategic Imperatives
Prof Debasis Bhattacharya

With the formation of I2U2 grouping comprising India, Israel, the USA, and the UAE a new strategic alliance has come into action towards promoting robust cooperation for establishing geostrategic and geo-economic equilibrium coupled with shared economic progress in the traditionally sensitive West Asia. The region also constitutes proximity to India and falls in New Delhi’s extended neighbourhood in the west. The first I2U2 Summit virtually held on July 14, 2022 and attended by the Heads of Government of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States has provided enormous impetus, synergy, and viable roadmap to harness the socio-politico-economic vibrancy, resources, and entrepreneurial spirit ingrained among the partner countries while addressing some of the critical challenges the emerging world order is grappling with. At the meeting the leaders identified priority areas encompassing water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security.[1] They demonstrated strong commitment to collaborate on propelling joint investments, resource mobilization and new initiatives for seeking optimal mitigation strategy. The focus on mobilizing private sector capital and expertise to modernize infrastructure, industrial production system with environmental safeguards, public health improvement agenda especially in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, and development of green technologies[2] facilitating energy security are key features of I2U2’s action plan.

The implications of the I2U2 grouping’s endeavours have been perceived worldwide as the member countries have increasingly been visible playing larger and dominant role in addressing regional and global challenges in the context of securing geostrategic equilibrium while upholding international rules-based system. The configuration of a new quadrilateral, the West Asia version of QUAD, whose emergence can be attributed to growing cooperation among its member countries specifically emboldened from the 2020 Abraham Accords that led to normalization of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours, especially the UAE.[3] I2U2 grouping’s unique nomenclature, strategic vision, and strong commitment to uphold sustainable development and shared economic progress typically interface with the overarching framework of ensuring peace, stability, security, and territorial sovereignty in not only troubled West Asia but also across the global paradigm. Such commitment also enables harnessing clean technology in conformity to global climate action agenda, enhancing healthcare cooperation, connectivity, trade and investment, energy cooperation, and poverty alleviation amidst rapidly changing geopolitical rifts and alliance structures, Afghanistan imbroglio and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. India's imperative role and robust expertise on all such domains are envisioned as of enormous consequences in enhancing the efficacy of the new alliance keeping in perspective that New Delhi is all set to take over the presidency of powerful G-20 grouping in 2023.

Concurrently, the I2U2 forum’s joint initiatives have high potential to act as transformational force for global good in a very sensitive and complex geopolitical environment of West Asia that also constitutes the extended neighbourhood of India in the western frontiers.

The I2U2 grouping is a well-coordinated robust partnership that remarkably displays effectiveness of ‘mini-lateral’[4] cooperation under the overarching framework of reformed multilateralism and transparency in global governance to shape the trajectory of regional and international geopolitical, security and geo-economic contours, among others, through comprehensive and sustainable engagement in an inclusive manner. The strategic significance of the alliance is well articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his remarks,
“I2U2 has set a positive agenda….the vision and agenda of I2U2 is progressive and practical. By mobilizing the mutual strengths of our countries - Capital, Expertise and Markets - we can accelerate our agenda, and contribute significantly to the global economy. Our cooperative framework is also a good model for practical cooperation in the face of increasing global uncertainties.”[5]

For New Delhi and Washington, the forum is of special importance as partner countries in both West Asian frontier and Indo-Pacific maritime corridor. That shows that the two countries have been able to make strategic convergence over the years on multifarious dimensions encompassing defence and security cooperation, trade and investment, energy cooperation, climate action, human rights, among others. For Israel that is located at the heart of West Asia and its gradual normalization of relations with the UAE and the Arab World, apart from long-standing friendship with India and the USA, the new grouping promises to make cohesive alliance based on convergence of mutual interests manifesting critical issues that the evolving world order is also confronting. The grouping also exhibits India’s growing and strategic engagement with West Asian countries including Israel in recent times coupled with the USA’s determination to maintain holistic diplomatic ties with West Asia while encouraging the growing trend of Israel’s integration with the Arab neighbourhood especially through the Abraham Accords[6]. Here I2U2’s geopolitical architecture further provides momentum to bring Israel and the UAE on the same table.

The formation of I2U2 creates great opportunities for India as all the partner countries consider it as a vast consumer market that is well-equipped with technology advanced value chain. Currently, India displays strong determination to consolidate diplomatic and economic alliance across hemispheres. Concurrently the strong historical and cultural ties between India, West Asia, and Middle Eastern region, keeping in perspective that New Delhi is a major buyer of energy resources from the region and supplier of consumer goods & skilled human expertise to the region,[7] act as catalyst in making I2U2 grouping a cohesive and well-integrated alliance. Such strong convergences manifest huge potential to effectively address pressing global challenges. In that context India’s strategic imperatives in I2U2 profoundly impact the trajectory of activism of the alliance for ensuring much needed geostrategic equilibrium in the region and across the world. Normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE along with other Arab partners, enabled by the Abraham Accords, is further stimulated by growing convergence and integrative diplomatic endeavours of India and the USA in the region. Subsequently, it can be asserted that the unique nomenclature of I2U2, commonly perceived as West Asian version of QUAD, is widely considered as potential game-changer in socio-politico-economic paradigm of the region having global ramifications. Furthermore, the defined priorities of I2U2 are considered as central in empowering partner countries[8] and working in concert. This will also enable tangible outcome at the ground level in an inclusive manner that would promote stability and security in the volatile West Asian region in conjunction with shared socio-economic progress.

Regarding priority areas each one of them has immense capability to promote robust integrative approach steered by the I2U2 forum and across hemispheres in both policy dimensions and strategic engagement on implementation, enforcement, and compliance. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine War has disrupted the contours of energy market in Europe and the Middle East because of emerging geopolitical rift-lines. Heightened India-EU partnership and India-Nordic relations that focus on connectivity and trade, maritime security, and energy cooperation can be more meaningful by Israel and the UAE acting as bridge between the two large trading partners[9] thereby making I2U2 mini-lateral cooperation as transformational force towards facilitating energy security and harnessing clean technology.

On food security frontier the I2U2 alliance categorically addresses issues related to global uncertainty. The disruption of food supply chain in Europe because of Russia-Ukraine War has cascading effects worldwide. Here I2U2 grouping’s concerted efforts to ensure food security would provide impetus in stabilizing the evolving distortions. In this context the UAE’s decision to invest USD 2 billion to develop a series of integrated food parks across India under the I2U2 food security agenda[10] is a welcome step in mitigating food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East. Simultaneously with the US and Israeli private sectors going to lend their expertise and offer innovative solutions to enhance overall sustainability of the project epitomizes the grouping’s meaningful interventions towards integrative cooperation facilitating shared economic progress in an inclusive manner. Concurrently, for strengthening clean technology collaboration towards achieving energy security, I2U2 grouping’s initiative to advance hybrid renewable energy project comprising 300 megawatts of wind and solar capacity in the state of Gujarat in India[11] bears significant interface with the endeavours undertaken by India-France led International Solar Alliance to which Israel, the US and the UAE are signatories while making tangible impact across continents. All these initiatives resonate well with strategic position of India in the grouping.

The centrality of India in I2U2 architecture can be further ascertained by New Delhi’s consistent deepening of strategic and economic ties with the Middle Eastern region coupled with heightened partnership with Israel, the US, and the UAE. Simultaneously, the unique geographic position of India at the confluence of West-Asia and Indo-Pacific provides New Delhi with geostrategic advantage towards ensuring enhanced connectivity between greater Indian Ocean Region across continental Asia, Europe, and Trans-Atlantic domain on one side and across the wider Pacific waters on the other. These factors along with upcoming G-20 presidency reinforces India’s pivotal role in I2U2 grouping while establishing geostrategic equilibrium in West Asia and beyond.

Endnotes :

[1]https://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/35492/Joint_Statement_of_the_Leaders_of_India_Israel_United_Arab_Emirates_and_the_United_States_I2U2
[2]https://www.firstpost.com/world/i2u2-will-make-significant-contribution-toward-energy-food-security-economic-growth-says-pm-modi-10909511.html
[3]https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/07/14/i2u2-quad-india-israel-uae-us-south-asia/
[4]https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/i2u2-summit-what-india-stands-to-gain-5575831.html
[5]https://www.mea.gov.in/Speeches-Statements.htm?dtl/35491/English_translation_of_Address_by_Prime_Minister_Shri_Narendra_Modi_at_the_I2U2_Summit
[6]https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/everyday-explainers/what-is-i2u2-holding-first-ever-leaders-summit-8027574/
[7]https://theprint.in/world/india-a-natural-choice-for-i2u2-grouping-for-west-asia/1007850/
[8]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/is-the-i2u2-summit-another-version-of-the-quad-all-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-grouping/articleshow/92824586.cms
[9]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indias-partnership-can-be-game-changer-in-i2u2-grouping-former-israeli-nsa/article65634556.ece
[10]https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/i2u2-summit-identified-joint-projects-prepared-a-roadmap-says-pm-modi-101657796322725.html
[11]https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/2u2-uae-to-invest-2-bn-to-develop-integrated-food-parks-across-india-122071400834_1.html

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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