Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: India and Iraq, second largest oil exporter to the country, are expected to ink a key pact on energy cooperation among other agreements during the three-day visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki from Thursday.
In a first bilateral visit by a head of government in 38 years, the Iraqi Prime Minister will hold comprehensive talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh which will also focus on investment from here in much-needed reconstruction of the war-wrecked country.
Maliki will be accompanied by a very high-level team including the ministers of oil, health and agriculture and the head of Iraq`s national investment commission, spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said here.
Noting that the countries have finalised the agreement on energy cooperation, Joint Secretary in the Gulf Division of MEA Mridul Kumar said the officials are "expecting that during the Iraqi Prime Minister`s visit this agreement could be signed."
With crude oil imports from Iran taking a huge hit due to severe sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union, India`s dependence on Iraqi oil exports have increased. In October 2010, Iraq replaced Iran in the third place with proven reserves of 143.1 billion barrels of oil.
Currently, India is importing around USD 20 billion worth of crude oil from Iraq. Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of crude oil to India.
Kumar also talked about possibility of an agreement in the area of water resources management during the visit of Maliki, who will also travel to Mumbai. From Iraqi side, the focus would be more on Indian investment to develop their infrastructure but the prospects of attracting foreign investment to Iraq have been complicated as the country has been hit by its worst violence since 2008.
Indian exports to Iraq totalled around USD 1.3 billion in 2012, up from USD 740 million in 2011, while Baghdad`s exports to India -- the vast majority of which were oil -- totalled more than USD 20 billion last year, compared to around USD 9 billion in 2011.
Iraq, which currently exports around 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, is looking to dramatically boost its energy output, with officials aiming for overall production capacity of 9 million bpd by 2017, a fact energy-deficient India cannot ignore to secure energy supplies to drive its economic growth and development.
On other fronts, Kumar also noted that Indian mission in Iraq issues nearly 200-250 visas per day which includes for those who want to come here for medicare.
With PTI inputs