The leaders of Israel, India, the United States and the United Arab Emirates announced on Thursday a pair of massive collaborative projects in the fields of food security and clean energy after they met at a virtual summit during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem.
Biden, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement in a joint statement their offices issued during their virtual meeting — the highest-level gathering to date of the new, US-formulated I2U2 forum.
In public remarks before the closed-door meeting, the four leaders stressed the importance of working together to address global challenges.
“We need to think in new terms when it comes to energy, food security, water tech, defense and trade,” Lapid said. “In the 21st century, challenges are local but solutions are global.”
The Israeli premier highlighted the food security crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling the emerging food corridor between India and the UAE “a clear example of a solution to a problem we are all facing.”
Speaking after Lapid, Biden said the meeting is “about demonstrating the importance of showing the practical impacts” of Israel’s growing integration.
“Our challenge together is to deliver real results that people can feel in their everyday lives,” he continues. “We can do a great deal if we stick together,” the president concludes, stressing that he intends to stay engaged on the matter.
“Under the I2U2 framework, we have agreed to increase joint investment in six important areas: water, energy, transport, space, health and food security. It is clear that both the vision and agenda of I2U2 are progressive and practical,” Modi said.
“I also hope that our quartet will be a model for those who desire peace and prosperity,” bin Zayed said.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters en route to Israel on Wednesday that bringing together Israel, India and the UAE, particularly to utilize their expertise to address food security challenges, fulfills Biden’s vision of a “more integrated, more globally engaged Middle East.”
“We think I2U2 can become a feature of the broader region, just as the Quad has become a central pillar of the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States,” Sullivan said, referring to the security dialogue the US has with India, Australia and Japan.
Thursday’s joint statement said the four countries would aim 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.”
The I2U2 countries also will utilize their respective private sectors to advance low carbon development pathways, improve public health and access to vaccines, jointly create new solutions for waste treatment, and promote the development of green technologies, the communique said.
The countries stressed their support for Israel’s integration in the region, drawing a connecting line between the Abraham Accords normalization agreements and the formation of forums such as the I2U2. They also welcomed other new regional groupings such as the Negev Forum, which consists of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the US.
Notably, the joint statement made no mention of the Palestinians. The US in the past has pressed for the inclusion of a commitment to advance the two-state solution in such documents, though it might have been outnumbered by the three other countries whose leaders have expressed less interest in publicly promoting the issue.
The leaders “discussed innovative ways to ensure longer-term, more diversified food production and food delivery systems that can better manage global food shocks,” the communique said.
As for the two projects announced Thursday, the first will see the UAE invest $2 billion to develop a series of food parks across India that will incorporate green technologies to reduce food waste, conserve fresh water and employ renewable energy sources.
The collaboration will see India provide land and integrate its farmers into the project, and the US and Israel will encourage their respective private sectors to offer their expertise for the initiative, which will help address food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East.
The second initiative will be the creation of a hybrid renewable energy project in “India’s Gujarat State of 300 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar capacity complemented by a battery energy storage system,” the joint statement said.
The US Trade and Development Agency footed the bill for a $330 million feasibility study for the project and Emirati companies are exploring investment opportunities, with the encouragement of the US and Israeli governments. The project will help advance India’s goal of achieving 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 and transforming the country into a global hub for renewable energy.
The I2U2 leaders stressed that the two projects were only the beginning of a “long-term strategic partnership that… improve the movement of people and goods across hemispheres and increase sustainability…[through] collaborative science and technology partnerships.”