At last month’s G20 summit, President Biden announced an initiative to connect India to Israel via shipping and railroad links that would run through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other countries—and eventually link up with the European Union. Such a scheme would build on both the Abraham Accords and the warm relations at present between Jerusalem and New Delhi, and also serve American strategic interests. To Efraim Inbar, Washington and its allies should be thinking even more boldly:
It immediately comes to mind that the corridor could constitute one of the more ambitious counters to China’s own Belt and Road Initiative, which sought to connect more of the world to that country’s economy. . . . However, if the American goal is to circumvent Chinese influence, the announced corridor needs an eastern extension. This Western-oriented corridor neglects important U.S. allies such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. These states are essential in the ongoing American competition with China.
Any trade corridor needs to be defended militarily. The U.S. must control both straits via its allies or its own maritime power. That requires the U.S. to establish the military might to maintain the freedom of navigation along the extended corridor. An uninterrupted flow of goods from Europe and the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific is critical. Only an America that can supply security for the trade routes can reassure its allies and hedging states about American seriousness . . . in case of greater Chinese encroachment.
Nevertheless, both wings of the corridor are susceptible to hostile interference. Iran can act against free trade in the western corridor. It already does so by attacking even American ships in its vicinity in the Indian Ocean, and its presence in Yemen is also threatening. Similarly, China acts aggressively in the South China Sea and threatens to invade Taiwan.
The U.S. must demonstrate to [these] states that getting closer to China is unwise. In the Middle East, anti-American political entities such as Iran, Syria, and even the Palestinian Authority, which signed strategic partnerships with China, must realize that Beijing is not a reliable ally. The best demonstration is a strong American response to the Iranian challenges. In contrast, neither China nor Russia can project power in the Indian Ocean, signaling that China cannot guarantee security.