On 14 July 2022, the I2U2 group held its first virtual summit. The group was established last October and the summit brought together US President Joe Biden, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, and Yair Lapid, the Prime Minister of Israel. These four leaders of India, Israel, the UAE, and the US agreed to pursue food security initiatives during a summit that focused in particular on investing in energy, water, transportation, space, health, and food security. The leaders also discussed how to deal with global food challenges and crises and how to bolster clean energy initiatives.
The discussions held and speeches delivered at the summit centered around several themes, which can be summarized as follows:
1. Building transregional international alliances: The I2U2 group, which includes the US, UAE, Israel, and India, is part of an effort to form transregional international alliances among countries that are not necessarily geographically contiguous, but which share certain values, interests, or concerns. This generally entails addressing common threats or pursuing mutually beneficial economic cooperation with other countries in the alliance.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said that the summit shed light on significant opportunities for cooperation between countries and economies that share similar values and objectives with regard to peace, tolerance, and prosperity. He added: "Our [four] countries do not share [a] geographical border, yet they converge . . . for peace, and their joint action to achieve wellbeing and prosperity." US officials also stated that the summit was held in order to bolster economic ties at the global level.
2. UAE commits to adopting partnerships as a cooperation mechanism: Abu Dhabi has sought to develop partnerships to further cooperation and the I2U2 summit exemplifies the UAE’s most recent steps in that direction. The President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, affirmed that the country would continue its longstanding approach of supporting all efforts to bolster coexistence and constructive cooperation between countries. He added that this stemmed from a belief that people have the right to peace, stability, development, and prosperity, and to achieve a better future for the next generation. He also stated that partnerships could overcome the complex and interconnected challenges that the world faces today, particularly with regard to food and energy security, climate change, and healthcare. He emphasized that Abu Dhabi felt that economic cooperation was the "best way to achieve peace, security, and progress, especially when governments and peoples have the will . . . to build partnerships and face challenges."
3. A model for "economic peace": The quadrilateral group’s work thus far, including holding its first summit and pursuing various cooperative projects and initiatives, demonstrate a focus on "economic peace." In other words, the group’s leaders rely on economic cooperation as a mechanism for furthering peace. The I2U2 group aims to invest in the climate, agricultural, energy, and health sectors and promote peace and coexistence between different cultures. These goals were also central to the Abraham Accords, which established new foundations for strengthening ties between Israel and Arab countries including the UAE.
The President of the UAE said that he hoped that that the quadrilateral group would serve as a "model for those who desire peace and prosperity, [which] will provide evidence for the great opportunit[ies] . . . [lost in the wake of conflict and] squandered by blind extremism at the expense of people eager to live a good life." He emphasized that his country believed that economic cooperation was the best way to achieve peace, security, and progress.
4. Establishing Washington’s approach to regional alliances: Although the group’s first summit focused on economic issues, it was also shaped by other factors that have driven US policy in recent years, particularly with regard to reducing US involvement in the Middle East and building multilateral alliances to assume responsibility for security issues and the region’s interests. This is closely tied to Washington’s efforts to contain Iranian influence in the Middle East and to exert pressure on Tehran.
The joint statement issued by the White House after the summit stated that the group welcomed "the economic opportunities that flow from these historic developments [the Abraham Accords], including for the advancement of economic cooperation in the Middle East and South Asia, and in particular for the promotion of sustainable investment amongst the I2U2 partners." The statement added that the countries welcomed "other new groupings of countries, such as the Negev Forum for regional cooperation." This aligns with the US’s approach toward conflict resolution and peacebuilding with its allies through political and economic ties grounded in mutual interests.
5. Washington attempts to affirm its commitment to its allies: Given that the summit was held during US President Joe Biden’s first trip to the Middle East, the meeting attested to the US’s desire to demonstrate its commitment to its allies and to repairing relations with them. This is especially true in light of regional and international developments that have raised significant concerns among US allies towards Washington. In recent years, US foreign policy has shifted away from the Middle East as compared with other regions, which has led to growing anxiety about the rise of other regional powers such as Iran. Additionally, the outbreak of war in Ukraine further deepened the rift between Washington and its allies, since some of these countries, such as India, refused to fully adopt the US position towards the Russian intervention in Ukraine or to join Western sanctions against Russia.
6. Demonstrating that I2U2 is serious about acting quickly: The leaders of the group’s four countries aim to send a political message that they are serious about working together and that this new group will act quickly to pursue its initiatives. The first summit was held less than a year after the group was established, which demonstrates that the countries want to quickly achieve their goals and mutual interests. It is also indicative of the accelerated pace of cooperation between the four countries on multiple levels, and that they will work to establish frameworks and initiatives to carry out the group’s priorities.
Outcomes of the Summit
The summit’s outcomes included determining the following initiatives, paths, and priorities that the group will pursue:
1. Establishing a roadmap for the group’s priority projects and initiatives: The speeches given by I2U2 leaders laid the groundwork for the group’s priorities for its projects and initiatives across various sectors. The President of the UAE, His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that it would be important to prioritize research, development, healthcare, and space during the coming period, and called for drawing upon each countries’ strengths in these sectors. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, said that the I2U2 leaders would pursue joint investment in six key fields: water, energy, transportation, space, healthcare, and food security. The quadrilateral group’s first initiatives indicate a focus on food security, climate-smart agriculture, solar and wind energy, and energy storage mechanisms.
2. Mobilizing private sector expertise for these projects: The private sector will play an important role in carrying out the projects and initiatives designated as part of the joint efforts between I2U2 countries. The group’s leaders have focused on mobilizing private sector expertise to modernize infrastructure, bolster development and low-carbon emissions industries, improve public healthcare and vaccine access, and strengthen material ties between Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, they will work to find new joint solutions for issues such as waste disposal, exploring joint funding opportunities, connecting start-ups with I2U2 investment, bolstering technological development, particularly with regard to green energy, and ensuring food and energy security in the short and long term.
3. Unveiling a 2-billion Emirati food security initiative in India: Abu Dhabi announced a 2-billion-dollar food security initiative whereby the UAE will invest in the development of a series of integrated food parks in India. This project aims to bring together agricultural, food processing, and retail companies and to use cutting-edge environmental technologies to reduce waste, rationalize water consumption, and enhance crop yields. New Delhi will in turn provide the appropriate space for this project as well as the farmers needed to carry out the work, while the private sector in the US and Israel are invited to provide expertise and innovative solutions to contribute to the project’s overall sustainability. According to the US President Joe Biden, the US expects that this initiative will result in a threefold increase in food production in India during the next five years.
4. Launching an energy initiative in India: The I2U2 summit launched a clean energy initiative through which the group will develop a 300-megawatt hybrid renewable energy project in the Indian state of Gujarat using wind and solar energy along with a battery energy storage system. Indian companies will help the project reach its goal of producing 500 gigawatts of energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. These projects could make India a global hub for alternate supply chains in the renewable energy sector. UAE-based companies will explore opportunities to work as partners in providing knowledge and investment for the project. The US and Israel also intend to work with Abu Dhabi and New Delhi to shed light on private sector opportunities.
In conclusion, the summit was shaped by various recent global factors, particularly the war in Ukraine and its repercussions for the energy and food security sectors. This has clearly molded the group’s initiatives and projects thus far, including those still in the planning stage. I2U2 is also focused on healthcare and green development in light of growing challenges related to climate change and global health crises, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic.