India and Iraq agree for beyond buyer-seller ties
Baghdad: India and Iraq Thursday agreed to revive bilateral ties and intensify cooperation by taking the relations beyond that of a buyer and seller, with Baghdad inviting New Delhi to invest more in the oil-rich Arab country, scarred by years of conflict.
Allaying India's concern on the security situation in the country, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said "there are many places in the country which are peaceful and stable. We invite Indian companies to invest in such areas, like Southern Iraq".
Addressing a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid after delegation-level talks, Zebari said, "I won't say it is normal situation. In every business, there is an element of risk involved and risk can be manageable also".
He added, "I agree with the Minister that Iraq and India relations should not be of buyer-seller. It should be beyond that".
Khurshid said that both sides discussed the entire range of issue and avenues of partnership.
"We just don't want to have relationship for trade. We want to look beyond all sectors," he said.
Khurshid, who is the first External Affairs Minister to visit Iraq in 23 years, said, "It is my highest priority to participate in rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq. The priority we are giving to Iraq will become more intense and stronger".
The two leaders discussed economy, trade and cooperation in various areas like Information Technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, infrastructure and security.
Khurshid also called on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and handed him a letter of invitation by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit India which he accepted.
Iraq has witnessed a bloody war since 2003 when the US-led international troops invaded the country on the ground that the then Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction.
Though foreign troops have pulled out, the county has been hit by sectarian and terror violence claiming thousands of lives.
"This is a very important visit for Iraq-India relations. This visit will open some major inroads in better cooperation and areas of common interests," Iraqi Foreign Minister said.
Khurshid said both sides had a "very good conversation as we discussed all issues and area of cooperation especially into oil and hydrocarbon sector".
Khurshid also met Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani and discussed cooperation in the oil sector. Iraq has emerged as India's second largest crude oil supplier, replacing sanctions-hit Iran.
Indian Oil Minister Veerappa Moily will visit Iraq on July 8 for Joint Commission Meeting
"Joint Commission Meeting will discus low cost housing construction in Iraq, tourism and other issues in general besides energy security, the Deputy Prime Minister said.
In recent years, India's import of oil from Iraq has seen a significant rise. Iraq has the world's third largest proven oil reserves and it's trying to increase its oil production which was disrupted due to years of war and violence in the country.
Currently Iraq supplies 50 per cent of its oil to Asian countries and it plans to take the figure to 80 per cent by 2030, according to officials.
Till recently, Iran was India's second-biggest crude oil supplier after Saudi Arabia, meeting about 12 per cent of the country's needs.
But India has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil in the wake of US and European sanctions on the import of oil from the Islamic Republic.
India imported about 13.3 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2012-13 fiscal, down from 18.1 million tonnes shipped in the previous financial year.
Iraq, which currently exports around 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, is looking to boost its energy output, with target of overall production capacity of 9 million bpd by 2017.
Earlier in the day, Khurshid met with Iraqi National Security Advisor Saleh al-sayyadh and discussed cooperation in various fields.