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US, India, and Saudi Arabia Explore Ambitious Infrastructure Deal Involving Railways and Ports

Leaders from the United States, India, and Saudi Arabia, among other nations, are engaged in discussions regarding a prospective infrastructure agreement encompassing railroads and ports, as reported by Reuters on Friday, citing insider sources. The origins of these talks were initially disclosed in the American newsletter Axios.

As per Axios, this proposed project could serve as a significant undertaking promoted by the White House in the Middle East, where China’s influence is on the rise, and it aligns with Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative. The Biden administration is keen to solidify its diplomatic efforts for a substantial deal with Saudi Arabia, potentially even involving a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, all before the 2024 campaign takes center stage on Biden’s agenda.

According to Axios, the envisioned project aims to establish connections between Arab nations in the Levant and the Gulf through an extensive network of railways. These railways are expected to extend to India via seaports in the Gulf, as indicated by the sources. The genesis of this initiative can be traced back to discussions held over the past 18 months within another forum known as I2U2, which includes the United States, Israel, the UAE, and India, according to Axios, citing reliable sources.

Established in late 2021, the I2U2 forum’s primary objective is to deliberate on strategic infrastructure projects in the Middle East while serving as a counterbalance to the expanding influence of Beijing in the region. During the I2U2 meetings over the past year, Israel introduced the concept of connecting the region through railways. Part of the rationale behind this idea is to harness India’s expertise in executing large-scale infrastructure projects, as revealed by one source.