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India, Israel, US, UAE call for proposals in health, other sectors

India, Israel, the US and the UAE, the four countries which together constitute the I2U2 grouping, launched a a uniquely structured I2U2 business coalition, also termed private enterprise partnership, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday.

Separately, Washington DC, Tel Aviv, Delhi and Abu Dhabi also launched an official I2U2 site and called for project proposals in seven domains — water, climate/energy, transportation, space, health, food security, technology — preferably centered around West Asia, Africa, South Asia and the US.

Announced in the backdrop of the recent unveiling of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), the I2U2’s push to involve the private sector, with the US taking the lead, is seen as yet another move to deepen economic integration between South Asia and West Asia.

The four official leads of the grouping include Dammu Ravi, secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs, Ronen Levi, the director general of Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs, Ahmed Ali El Sayegh, minister of state for foreign affairs of UAE, and Jose Fernandez, the US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment.

Those familiar with the discussions leading up to the announcement said that the building blocks are being put in place for the I2U2 initiative. An official from one of the four countries, who asked not to be named, said, “Remember this initiative is new. Governments have now developed habits of cooperation among themselves. But we all recognise that we need to involve and unleash the private sector for the specific initiatives. This is an open invitation to private players, small and big, at a time of tremendous economic dynamism and potential in the region and growing geopolitical convergence to come and participate in an exciting future.”

In a sign of the public-private partnership that lies at the heart of the vision of the grouping, the US State Department signed a memorandum of understanding with the US-UAE Business Council, the UAE-India Business Council, and the UAE-Israel Business Council — which will together comprise the I2U2 Business Coalition. The other three governments aren’t officially a part of the MoU though it has their approval.

Outlining the objective, the MoU says the text provides for a “broad based core alliance of participant countries” and reflects shared value and focus of seeking joint collaboration initiatives while safeguarding the respective mission and vision of each of the four countries.

The 12U2 BC’s mission, according to the MoU, is to engage the four governments, increase awareness of the “enormous potential” of the I2U2 initiative, promote the private sector’s role, and mobilise the private sector to “identify, promote, and support, as appropriate, certain projects that further the goal of the initiative”.

The business coalition will convene events in all the four countries, present potential projects for the consideration of the State Department, convene virtual working groups in the seven domains identified by the group, publish studies and working papers by scholars of all four countries about I2U2’s potential, and use all platforms to spread awareness about the initiative. The State Department, subject to availability of funds, will support some of these initiatives.

Separately, on its newly unveiled site, the group said that the country from where the proposal originates will first carry out an initial vetting, and then an I2U2 committee comprising senior officials will consider private sector proposals on an individual basis. These project proposals will be judged on the basis of whether they create opportunities for the private sector, jobs, modernise infrastructure, advance low carbon development pathways, improve public health, advance physical connectivity, connect startups, create solutions for waste treatment, promote green technologies and increase food and energy security in the four countries.

India, Israel, the US and the UAE have also carved out the projects into two categories. The first category — Tier 1 projects — will receive support and encouragement from the four countries, while Tier 2 projects would include those with potential which may not have met all the parameters, or may be in an early stage of development, or awaiting financing, or in the process of completing a feasibility study. Hindustan Times

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