US, Persian Gulf states, India seeking railway deal at G-20: Report

US President Joe Biden and the leaders of India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are expected to announce a joint infrastructure agreement at the Group of 20 summit as part of Washington’s efforts to balance China’s influence in the region, Axios reported.

The plan, which may be announced Saturday, seeks to connect Persian Gulf and Arab countries via a network of railways, Axios said, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the discussions. It will also connect to India through shipping lanes from ports in the region, the report added.

Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, declined to comment on any potential announcement at the G-20, but told reporters en route to the summit in New Delhi that it was an initiative the US was invested in along with its partner countries.

“We believe that connectivity from India, across the Middle East to Europe is incredibly important and will bring a significant number of economic benefits, as well as strategic benefits, to all of the countries involved,” he stated.

Top Biden Advisor Sullivan Will Go to Saudi Arabia This Weekend

Earlier this year Sullivan traveled to Saudi Arabia for talks that also included Indian and UAE representatives on the topic.

US allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been moving closer to China as they seek to strengthen ties with fast-growing economies to the east. Last month the two oil rich Persian Gulf states announced they were joining the BRICS group of emerging market nations after China led a push to open up membership of the bloc.

The leaders of the BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are trying to increase the group’s influence and counter US power over the global economy and trade, including through the role of the US dollar.

Separately, a US-backed proposal to speed up land-trade routes between Persian Gulf Arab countries and the Mediterranean Sea has been floated among Israel and Persian Gulf countries, but officials acknowledge there is no set time line for any changes.

The US in recent years has sought to counter President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has financed hundreds of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure in emerging markets. China has also boosted ties with the Middle East of late, helping to broker a detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this year.

Xi is set to host world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Belt and Road summit in Beijing next month.

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