Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signed a deal with the UAE regarding a trade 'corridor' to Europe.(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


India’s Modi agrees trade ‘corridor’ to Europe with UAE ruler


India and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement on a trade corridor that aims to connect Europe with India through parts of the Middle East by sea and rail, an ambitious plan backed by the US and the European Union.

The announcement of the framework agreement, reached on February 13 during a visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Arab Gulf state, was released in a statement by the Indian foreign ministry, although few details on what the sides had agreed upon were made public.

“This would build on previous understandings and co-operation on this matter and foster India and the UAE co-operation furthering regional connectivity,” the ministry statement said.

The corridor, announced in September on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, aims to extend from India across the Arabian Sea to the UAE and through Saudi Arabia before connecting via Jordan and Israel to Europe.

The ministry’s statement made no mention of any country apart from India and the UAE, whose ties are built on more than a century of trade links.

The agreement on the India-Middle East Economic Corridor comes amid the more than four-month war in Gaza that has derailed US-backed plans to further integrate Israel with its Arab neighbours. Saudi Arabia has halted so-called normalisation plans.

The UAE foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Modi met with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, who the Indian leader often refers to as his “brother”.

“Today, our region is going through a difficult time but because of our relationship with you, we are building a lot of hope and looking forward to a future with India that is on par with our ambitions,” Sheikh Mohamed said at a meeting with Modi on February 13, according to video shared on Modi’s YouTube channel.

The UAE forged diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020 under a US-backed initiative known as the Abraham Accords that led to other Arab states, including Bahrain, establishing ties.

The UAE has maintained those relations with Israel throughout the war, although it has also repeatedly criticised Israel’s bombing of Gaza and called for a ceasefire.

The framework agreement between India and the UAE appears to signal that both states are pushing forward with the plan to establish the corridor, which may undermine China’s global trade infrastructure Belt and Road connectivity strategy.

The deal was signed as Yemen’s Houthi terrorist movement launched attacks on shipping vessels sailing the Red Sea, which the Iran-backed group has said is in protest to Israel’s bombing of Gaza. The attacks have endangered trade via the sea route.

The UAE and India also signed a bilateral investment treaty and exchanged co-operation agreements covering electrical interconnection, trade and “digital infrastructure”.

Modi was due to later address tens of thousands of the Indian diaspora at a stadium in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. He was also to speak at a summit in Dubai the following day before opening the first ever stone-built Hindu temple in the Middle East, also in Abu Dhabi.

This was Modi’s seventh visit to the Gulf State since becoming Prime Minister almost a decade ago, strengthening ties with one of his country’s top trading partners.