Biden and Modi to announce rail and shipping project to link India to Middle East and Europe

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden for the first session of the G20 Summit, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci,Pool)

NEW DELHI (AP) — President Joe Biden and his allies on Saturday were to outline plans for a rail and shipping corridor that would connect India with the Middle East and ultimately Europe — a possible game changer for global trade to be announced at the Group of 20 summit.

The project would include the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union and other countries in the G20, said Jon Finer, Biden’s deputy national security adviser.

Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi plan to announce the project as part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment. The rail and shipping corridor would enable greater trade among the countries, including energy products. It could also be one of the more ambitious counters to China’s massive infrastructure program, through which it has sought to connect more of the world to that country’s economy.

Finer laid out three big rationales for the project in a telephone call Saturday with reporters. He said first that the corridor would increase prosperity among the countries involved by increasing the flow of energy and digital communications. Second, the project would help address the lack of infrastructure needed for growth in lower- and middle-income nations. And third, Finer said it could help “turn the temperature down” on “turbulence and insecurity” coming out of the Middle East.

“We see this as having a high appeal to the countries involved, and also globally, because it is transparent, because it is a high standard, because it is not coercive,” Finer said.

Biden participated in the summit’s first session, which focused on the theme of “One Earth.” The U.S. president plans to draw on the theme to push for more investments to address climate change, such as his own domestic incentives to encourage the use of renewable energy, Finer said. Biden also wants to make the case that Russia’s war in Ukraine is hurting many other nations, which have had to cope with greater food and energy costs as well as higher interest rate costs on their debt.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been a regular presence at international summits, including last year’s G20 in Indonesia, since Russia invaded his country more than 18 months ago, was not invited by Modi’s government to this year’s gathering.

Zelenskyy has the used the high-profile gatherings to argue for continued economic and military support for his country. India is one of the most prominent U.S. allies that has largely stayed on the sidelines of the war, and has even dramatically increased its purchases of Russian oil.

Finer said White House officials pushed for Zelenskyy’s inclusion at the summit.

“Ultimately, it is not our decision,” Finer said. “But you can expect that the United States and our other partners who are working with Ukraine so closely … We’ll make that case quite forcefully in the context of these conversations.”

The summit’s second session is about “One Family.” Biden plans to use this portion to discuss his request to Congress for additional funding for the World Bank that could generate more than $25 billion in new lending for economic development, Finer said.

The White House more broadly is trying to strengthen the G20 as an international forum, while Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to attend.

Still, China and Russia are represented at the summit and that could make it difficult for the G20 to produce a joint statement on the war in Ukraine.

“Really it’s incumbent upon the Chinese government to explain why a leader would or would not participate,” Finer said.