The first summit of the four-nation grouping ‘I2U2’ on Thursday announced an investment of USD 2 billion to develop a series of integrated food parks across India and a plan to set up a 300-megawatt hybrid renewable energy project in Gujarat, signalling its near long-term strategic partnership to address major challenges in specific areas.
In the virtual summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan largely focused on joint investments and new initiatives in six specific areas of water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security.
A joint statement by the four leaders said the UAE will invest USD 2 billion to develop a series of integrated food parks across India, incorporating state-of-the-art climate-smart technologies to reduce food waste, conserve fresh water and employ renewable energy sources.
In his remarks, Biden said the UAE’s investment to develop integrated agricultural parks across India with the support of the American and Israeli private sector experts has the potential to sustainably increase India’s food yields by “threefold in just five years”.
The formation of the grouping, known as ‘I2U2’ with “I” standing for India and Israel and “U” for the US and UAE, is largely seen as a strategic attempt by the US to check China’s increasing influence in Asia and the Middle East.
In opening his remarks, Modi said the ‘I2U2’ has established a “positive” agenda in its first summit itself and that it would make an important contribution in areas of energy security, food security and economic growth.
“It is clear that the vision and agenda of “I2U2″ is progressive and practical. By mobilising the mutual strengths of our countries — capital, expertise and markets — we can accelerate our agenda, and contribute significantly to the global economy,” he said.
“Our cooperative framework is also a good model for practical cooperation in the face of increasing global uncertainties,” he said.
Asserting that the group has a clear agenda, Lapid said “this is not a philanthropic group. We want to change the world for the better, but we are also creating relative advantages for our countries, for our businesses, for our science sector.”
The UAE President said “our whole team will be a model for those who desire peace and prosperity and will provide evidence for the great opportunity …Squandered by blind extremism at the expense of people eager to live a good life,” comments seen as directed at Iran.
The joint statement mentioned that the ‘I2U2’ group will advance a hybrid renewable energy project in Gujarat consisting of 300 megawatts of wind and solar capacity, to be complemented by a battery energy storage system.
The US Trade and Development Agency funded a feasibility study for the USD 330 million project and UAE-based companies are exploring opportunities to serve as critical knowledge and investment partners.
In his opening remarks, Biden noted that the global challenges demand new ways of working together and even mentioned: “growing food insecurity and volatile energy markets made worse by Russia’s brutal and unprovoked attack against its neighbour, Ukraine.”
“The first two projects that we’re tackling together on food security and clean energy are designed to take on two of the most urgent crises affecting people around the globe,” he said.
He further added: “India is a major, major food producer in the world. Think of the beneficial impacts this (food parks project) will have on India’s farmers and the people suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the region.”
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The joint statement said the “unique grouping of countries aims to harness the vibrancy of our societies and entrepreneurial spirit to tackle some of the greatest challenges confronting our world, with a particular focus on joint investments and new initiatives in water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security.”
It said the ‘I2U2′ leaders’ meeting focused on food security crisis and clean energy and that they discussed innovative ways to ensure longer-term, more diversified food production and food delivery systems.
The leaders expressed their determination to leverage well-established markets to build more innovative, inclusive, and science-based solutions to enhance food security and sustainable food systems.
Referring to the food parks project, the statement said India will provide appropriate land for the project and will facilitate farmers’ integration into the food parks.
“The US and Israeli private sectors will be invited to lend their expertise and offer innovative solutions that contribute to the overall sustainability of the project. These investments will help maximise crop yields and, in turn, help tackle food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East,” it said.
The meeting focused on the food security crisis and clean energy with the leaders discussing innovative ways to ensure longer-term, more diversified food production and food delivery systems that can better manage global “food shocks”, it said.
“Israel and the United States intend to work with the UAE and India to highlight private sector opportunities. Indian companies are keen to participate in this project and contribute to India’s goal of achieving 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030,” it said.
The joint statement said such projects have the potential to make India a global hub for alternate supply chains in the renewable energy sector.
The I2U2 grouping was conceptualised during the meeting of the foreign ministers of the four countries held on October 18 last year.
“We reaffirm our support for the Abraham Accords and other peace and normalization arrangements with Israel. We welcome the economic opportunities that flow from these historic developments, including for the advancement of economic cooperation in the Middle East and South Asia,” the statement said.
The I2U2 also welcome other new groupings of countries, such as the Negev Forum for regional cooperation, that recognise the unique contributions of each partner country, including Israel’s ability to serve as an innovation hub.
The leaders also welcomed India’s interest in joining the US, the UAE, and Israel in the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate initiative (AIM for Climate). “They affirmed that these are only the first steps in a long-term strategic partnership to promote initiatives and investments that improve the movement of people and goods across hemispheres, and increase sustainability and resilience through collaborative science and technology partnerships,” the joint statement said.