I2U2: Unveiling a new agenda

Updated on Jul 14, 2022 08:31 PM IST

In the current era of more flexible partnerships, I2U2 could emerge as a platform for shaping responses to global challenges

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the I2U2 virtual Summit, New Delhi, July 14, 2022 (ANI/ PIB) PREMIUM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the I2U2 virtual Summit, New Delhi, July 14, 2022 (ANI/ PIB)
ByHT Editorial

For a group cobbled together less than nine months ago, the agenda unveiled by India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States (US), or I2U2, at their first virtual summit, is significant for both its ambition and focus on two of the most pressing contemporary challenges — food and energy security. The UAE will provide $2 billion to create integrated food parks in India, with the US and Israeli private sectors chipp-ing in with expertise and technology. Another $330 million will go towards developing a 300-MW hybrid renewable energy project in Gujarat. Both projects are virtual test beds to explore, scale up, and repli-cate new technologies to cope with spiralling food and energy shortages brought on by a mix of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the war in Ukraine. The concept of food-scarce West Asian countries cooperating with a major agricultural producer such as India is not new, but I2U2’s planned food corridor, initially covering Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, will be the first project to give practical shape to such ambitions. The hybrid-energy project dovetails into India’s plans to have 500 GW of energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and can be an opportunity to test new tech from the US and Israel. Both new initiatives put the private sector front and centre, with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid going so far as to say that this will not be a “philanthropic group”, but an effort to create relative advantages for the four countries and their businesses while also attempting to change the world for the better.

With I2U2 being described in some quarters as a West Asian Quad, though Indian officials are quick to distance themselves from such formulations, the new grouping could learn a few lessons from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’s poor performance in respect of certain pledges, such as ensuring access to Covid-19 vaccines. The ability to frame an ambitious agenda must be matched by a razor-sharp focus on delivery. I2U2 also offers an opportunity to use collaboration between West Asia and the Indo-Pacific to provide a convincing and more transp-arent alternative to China’s tainted Belt and Road Initiative, especially through the group’s plans on creating and modernising infrastructure, low-carbon development and improving public health facilities. A few years ago, such a diverse grouping would have been unimaginable. In the current era of more flexible partnerships, I2U2 could emerge as a platform for shaping responses to global challenges.

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