With the world in ‘turmoil’, a new ‘Quad’ comes into place

The first meeting of heads of state and government of India, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — dubbed the West Asian “Quad possibly see the announcement of a joint venture partnership on storage facilities for energy from renewables and another on the establishment of food corridors.

Also known as the “I2U2,” the meeting on Thursday will bring together the prime ministers of India and Israel (I2) – Narendra Modi and Yair Lapid — and the presidents of the US and the UAE (U2), Joe Biden and Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan. The new alignment is set against the backdrop of economic and political risks in an increasingly uncertain world with high inflation, soaring food and fuel prices and a pandemic that upended established ways of doing business.

Joining the West Asia Quad is part of the “hedging” strategy adopted by a large number of countries, Talmiz Ahmed, former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, told Al Jazeera. “With the world in turmoil, no one knows what will work. So countries are hedging their bets” and joining and forming groups that they think will work best for them, Ahmed said.

The summit meeting is to take place on the second day of Biden’s three-stop July 13-16 tour of Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia. This is Biden’s first visit to the region since he took office in January last year. Modi is to participate in the meet virtually.

The I2U2 is aimed to “encourage joint investments” in six mutually identified areas such as water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security, according to an Indian government statement on Tuesday. It intends to mobilise private-sector capital and expertise to help modernise the infrastructure, develop clean energy for industries, improve public health, and promote the development of critical emerging and green technologies, the statement said, adding that the “projects can serve as a model for economic cooperation and offer opportunities for our businesspersons and workers”.

Briefing reporters last month in Washington, DC, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price had also underlined the economic agenda of the grouping.

Expectations from the Summit

With all the leaders participating in Thursday’s summit, it is seen as a move to institutionalize the so-called West Asian Quad which, in turn, provides a framework that will help convert “government-to-government ideals into concrete programmes that will allow business-to-business interactions,” said Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, fellow at the New Delhi-based Ananta Aspen Centre think tank.

For instance, the potential announcement of a venture in renewable energy storage.

“The storage of energy generated from renewables is most critical. At present there are no technologies for this,” an Indian energy ministry official who is not authorised to speak to the media, said, adding that electricity generated from a renewable source was linked immediately to a grid without storing it. The new business joint venture would look at critical storage technology, the official added.

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