Iraq ready to provide as much oil as India needs
Baghdad: Iraq, currently the second largest crude oil supplier to India, has assured it to provide as much oil as it could to fulfill the needs of the growing Indian economy.
"Iraq is willing to assist, to provide or to meet as much as it could (to fulfill) the needs of Indian economy," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said here.
Top Iraqi officials believe that India with its strong economic growth will be needing more fuel particularly crude oil and oil-rich Iraq is in a unique position to supply and meet that demand.
Iraq produces 3.15 million barrels a day of crude and plans to double the output by 2020.
Pointing out that Iraq has the world's third largest proven oil reserves and is now second largest oil supplier to India, Zebari said Iraqi potentials are huge in the coming decades.
In recent months, Iraq has replaced sanctions-hit Iran as India's second largest crude oil supplier.
Indian oil refineries purchased nearly 20 per cent of Iraq's crude oil production last year and they are hoping to take it above 30 per cent in future, the sources said.
India has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil in the wake of US and EU sanctions on the import of oil from the Islamic Republic.
Zebari underlined the importance of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's two-day official tour to Iraq, saying, "This visit is very important visit for Iraq-India relations".
Khurshid, who visited Iraq on June 19-20, was the first senior Indian minister to tour the war-ravaged country in last 23 years. Former External Affairs Minister I K Gujral had visited Iraq in 1990.
"This visit will open some major inroads towards better cooperation between the two countries in many areas of common interests, trade, business, investment and also Indian expertise for Iraqi economy and in all the areas of mutual cooperation," Zebari said.
"This visit will set the trend for future visits, for future exchanges of visits of delegations," said Zebari, who is likely to visit India in coming months.
The Iraqi minister stressed on the need to revive a joint ministerial commission for economic cooperation between the two countries which last met in 2007.
Indian Oil Minister Veerappa Moily is likely to visit Iraq on July 8 for Joint Commission Meeting, sources said.
The joint commission is likely to discuss a number of issues of cooperation in fields like agricultural, low cost housing, medical, pharmaceutical and other areas besides oil.
Zebari also offered Indian companies to invest at the places which are relatively peaceful like southern Iraq which is oil rich and assured them to provide safe environment and every help.
"We welcome Indian companies to invest. We are looking forward to that. I think you will hear from Iraqi officials’ willingness (to cooperate with them)," he said.
"We will open every opportunity for some joint venture for investment for developing some of our sectors like energy, oil, chemicals, fertilizers," he said, adding that his country is in need of knowledge, expertise, work force etc which India could provide.
"Our relations are old historical people-to-people and there are many many commonalities," he said.
Zebari is not alone in advocating strong ties with India, which, according to him, should be "beyond buyer-seller relationship".
Iraq's National Security Advisor Saleh Al-Fayyadh said, "We have many topics that we can cooperate about such as energy, economy, health, private sectors, other sectors and military and security issues also."
"We, in the National Security Advisory, support the developing of the relations between the two countries," he said.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Hussein Al Shahristani believes that there is serious desire between the two countries to develop relations politically and economically and in different fields.
"India should count Iraq as long-term dependable partner and not only a supplier," he said.