JERUSALEM — I2U2 sounds as though it might be a cross between a legendary Irish rock band and a droid from “Star Wars.”
The truth is almost as intriguing, at least for followers of international affairs: I2U2 is a new partnership between the governments of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. The name refers to the first letters of the four countries’ names in English.
President Biden and Israel’s prime minister, Yair Lapid, gave the fledging initiative additional momentum on Thursday morning with a four-way call in Jerusalem with their Indian and Emirati counterparts — Narendra Modi and Mohammed bin Zayed.
Analysts say that I2U2 bolsters the United States’ efforts to contain China’s influence in Asia and the Middle East, reassure Middle Eastern leaders of Washington’s commitment to the region and establish better ties between its allies in different parts of the world.
The initiative is considered a companion project to the Quad, a four-way partnership joining together Australia, India, Japan and the United States that was founded partly in response to growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.
For Israel, I2U2 is another forum in which to shore up opposition to Iran, as well as to strengthen the landmark diplomatic pact that it sealed with the U.A.E. in 2020, after decades of estrangement.
With the formation of I2U2, “it feels like the Biden administration is trying to integrate two separate strategic contexts” — the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East, said Kevjn Lim, the author of a recent paper on Israel’s relationships with China and Iran. “It’s looking to close ranks among the U.S.’s partners in different regions,” Dr. Lim added.
For India, the goal is primarily economic. The initiative lets Delhi bolster trade ties with the Emirates after the sealing of a major economic agreement in March, and gives momentum to negotiations for a trade agreement with Israel.
Roughly 3.5 million Indians live in the Emirates, about a third of the Gulf nation’s total population, making them an important source of labor for the U.A.E. and remittances for India. India also receives significant amounts of oil from the Emirates and arms from Israel.
In a press briefing last week, a White House official said that I2U2 would also allow its participants to discuss food security. Russia’s war in Ukraine has created a shortfall in grain supplies, a gap exacerbated by India’s recent decision to restrict its wheat exports.