Talks to connet India through railway with Gulf ME in G20 meetings

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WASHINGTON: The United States, Saudi Arabia, India and other nations are discussing a possible infrastructure deal that could reconfigure trade between the Gulf and South Asia, linking Middle Eastern countries by railways and connecting to India by port, according to US officials aware of the conversations.

The talks, which have also included the United Arab Emirates and Europe, may or may not yield a concrete result in time for an announcement on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 (G20) leaders meeting, the people said.

The conversations have been under way for months but are fluid, one of the people said.

The plans for a sweeping, multi-national ports and rail deal would come at a critical time. To counter China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure push, US President Joe Biden is pitching Washington as an alternative partner for and investor in developing countries at the G20, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

It also comes as the Biden administration seeks a broader diplomatic deal in the Middle East that would have Saudi Arabia recognise Israel. The negotiations over a multi-country infrastructure deal were first reported by Axios.

Beyond the diplomatic implications, officials said they hope such an infrastructure deal could reduce shipping times, cost, the use of diesel and make trade faster and cheaper. Saudi Arabia will also participate in an investment forum.

The event will be attended by India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal and Saudi minister of investment Khalid al-Falih, according to the organiser, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

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