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India-Iraq Bilateral Relations

India and Iraq have historical and civilizational ties. Iraqi port of Basra was not only the market par excellence of the Indian merchandise including textiles, spices, food-grains and other commodities for the Arab world but also of the famous pearl trade that flourished mainly through the Indian traders and jewellers. Indian soldiers and railway workers from British India had played major role in ensuring the security in this region during the colonial era and have left an imprint in the region that many Iraqis still proudly claim their Indian ethnic descent.  India and Iraq have even shared agricultural practices.  The breed of the southern Iraqi Jamus or the water buffalo had been brought by Harun Al-Rashid from India. The Iraqi Philosophers and Sufi saints like Hasan al Basri, Junaid Al Baghdadi and Sheikh Behlul had such an impact on the spiritual movements in India that Guru Dev Nanak Saheb came personally to Baghdad to deliberate on the ontological and the epistemological questions with Sheikh Behlul who hosted him for nearly three months.  Iraqi spiritual leader Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani has enormous following in India where he is referred to either as Dastagir Saheb or Ghous-al-Azam.  On the other hand, Indians were among the foremost to patronize the Shrines and Sarai Khanas of the heritage of Islam’s primeval martyrdom at Karbala. Thousands of Indians visit the shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas in Karbala every year and also the shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani in Baghdad.

2. Since the outbreak of war in Iraq, India has been supporting a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal and unified Iraq.  India responded to the urgent needs of Iraq for relief and economic reconstruction directly and as part of international efforts under the UN auspices.  In response to UN Secretary General’s urgent appeal, India committed US$ 20 mn for assistance to the Iraqi people in 2003.  Activities under this pledge included supply of milk powder through World Food Programme, training of Iraqi Foreign Service officers in diplomacy, and other Iraqi officials in Information Technology.  In cooperation with World Food Programme (WFP), India provided fortified biscuits to Iraqi school children and Iraqi refugees in Syria.  In addition, India contributed US$ 10 million towards the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) for investments, reconstruction and development in Iraq.

3. The respect for each other’s strength has been mutual between India and Iraq. The people to people and institutional contacts are so deep that today India has become the most preferred destination for Iraqis for seeking quality medical treatment.  Hundreds of Iraqis prefer to send their children for higher education to India on self-financing basis. There is hardly a University in Iraq of which some faculty has not studied in India.The estimated number of Iraqi students in India is more than 800. The Mission is currently issuing around 200 visas per day going up to 350-400 during the summer. Majority of the travellers visit India for Medical purposes, tourism, education, and for business. In the calendar year 2016, a total of 42,135 visas of different categories have been issued by the Mission.

4. The academic linkages in the medical and engineering fields have throughout been vibrant. In terms of capacity building, India has annually been providing assistance to Iraq under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme to train officials of the Government of Iraq.  For the year 2017-18, a total of 175 slots have been allotted under ITEC programme. In addition, India has been offering opportunity to Iraqi students for higher studies in India under ‘General Scholarship Scheme’ (GSS) organized by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). The Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC) has provided training to the Iraqi oil officials in India in various subjects related to downstream oil sector.  

5. There have been high-level political exchanges between the two countries in recent years which are summarized below:

i) External Affairs Minister Shri Salman Khurshid paid a visit to Iraq in June 2013. This was the first visit to Iraq by EAM from India since 1990. The last round of the bilateral Joint commission meeting was held in July 2013 in Baghdad. Indian side was led by Dr. Veerappa Moily, Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and the Iraqi side by Mr. Abdul Kareem Luaibi, Minister of Oil.

ii) Prime Minister of Iraq Mr. Nouri Al Maliki paid a State visit to India in August 2013. He was accompanied by a large delegation including Minister for Oil, Minister for Agriculture and leading Iraqi businessmen. 4 MoUs were signed during the visit including on Cooperation in Energy Sector; on cooperation between the two Foreign Ministries; on Cooperation between the Foreign Service Institutes of both sides; and on Cooperation in the field of water resources management.

iii) Mr.  Falih Al-Fayyadh, National Security Advisor of Iraq visited India in December 2013 during which an MoU on Cooperation between the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and Al-Nahrain Center for Strategic Studies, Baghdad was signed.

iv). The First round of India-Iraq Foreign Office Consultations was held in New Delhi in Nov 2015. The Iraqi side was led by Mr. Nazar Al-Khairalla, Deputy Foreign Minister and Indian side by Shri Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs.

v). Minister of State for External Affairs Shri M.J. Akbar visited Iraq on 21-23 August 2016. During the visit, the Minister met the President of Iraq Mr. Fuad Masum; Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Dr. Salim al-Jabouri; Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the National Security Advisor Mr Faleh al-Fayyad. He also paid a visit to the Holy city of Karbala where he had met the Chairman of the Provincial Council of Karbala, religious leaders, and members of the Indian Community.

vi). Dr. Hamed Younis Saleh, Deputy Oil Minister of Iraq led a delegation for the PETROTECH 2016 held in New Delhi on 5-7 December 2016.

6. Parliamentary Exchanges: There is Iraq-India Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Iraqi Parliament (Council of Representatives) led by Mr. Helal Al Sahlani. All of its seven members are high-profile political leaders from across the country. Mr. Osama Al Nujaifi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament had visited India in December 2012 and had meetings with Speakers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Mr. Humam Al Hamoudi, Deputy Speaker of Iraqi Parliament visited India in April 2017 and had meetings with General (Retired) V. K. Singh, MoS in the Ministry of External Affairs and other leaders. 

Economic and Commercial relations 

7. The economic and trade relations between India and Iraq slowed down after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Today, Iraq is the second largest supplier of crude oil to India with a total amount of 33,210 BPD. Major buyers in India are: Indian Oil Corporation, HPCL and BPCL.

(in $ million) 
Year India’s Export to Iraq India’s imports from Iraq Total
2011-12 763.97 18,918.47 19,682.44
2012-13 1,278.13 19,247.31 20,534.44
2013-14 918.03 18,520.86 19,438.89
2014-15 829.32 14,247.66 15,076.98
2015-16 1,004.39 10,837.58 11,841.97
2016-17 (Apr’16-Feb’17) 1,020.75 10,054.94 11,075.69
(Source: Department of Commerce, Government of India)

8. Indian exports to Iraq consist of cereals, iron and steel, meat and meat products, pharmaceutical products, agro chemicals, cosmetics, rubber manufactured products, paints, gems and jewellery, ceramics, manufactures of metals, machine tools, electrical machinery and instruments, transport equipment, electronic goods, handicrafts, sugar, tea, garments. A significant volume of exports takes place through Dubai. Mineral fuels forms the bulk of India’s imports from Iraq while edible fruits and nuts, raw hide and skins, and wool are also imported in smaller quantities.

9. Iraq used to be the main destination of huge project for Indian companies. In the post-war era, there is some presence of Indian companies: M/S Mokul Shriram JV had won a US$235 Million contract to rebuild the sewerage system for Basrah; Ms Shapoorji Pollonji had won a US$ 85 Million contract to rebuild a Hotel in Basrah and Ms Lanco Infratech had won a US 81 Million EPC contract to build the Akaaz power project. M/s BGR Energy signed a US$246 Million EPC contract to build the Nassiriyah Power Project. 

10. The Mission organized the first Najaf-India Trade Show at the International Trade Fair ground in Najaf in September 2016 in which 34 Indian companies exhibited their products. The Trade Show was inaugurated by the Deputy Trade Minister of Iraq. The Fair was followed by B2B meetings between the businessmen of both countries at Najaf and in Baghdad.

11. Iraqi pharmaceuticals companies have been actively participating in various trade promotion events organized in India. More than 80 Indian pharmaceuticals companies are supplying medicines to the Iraqi market. A number of Indian hospitals are on the panel of Iraqi Health Ministry where the latter sends eligible Iraqi patients. The First Master Class on Epilepsy Surgery between the Neurosurgeons of both sides were held in Baghdad on March 3-4, 2017.

12. Cultural Relations: The second UN International Day of Yoga was celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in Baghdad on 18 June 2016. As part of the celebrations of the 2nd International Day of Yoga, free Yoga classes were conducted for three months from 19th June 2016 by two experts from AYUSH New Delhi. Further, a workshop on Yoga, Ayurveda and Siddha (Indian Traditional Medicines) was organized in the same month in the presence of an invited gathering of about 60 people including officials of Iraqi Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and University of Baghdad. Mission is making preparation for 3rd International Day of Yoga in Baghdad on June 17, 2017.

13. Indian community: There are a few families of Indian origin living mainly in the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala, Basra and Baghdad. With the lifting of the Government of India advisory against travel of Indians to Iraq which was in vogue from 2004 till May 2010, the number of Indian workers had steadily increased in the more stable Kurdistan region comprising Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk governorates, with better salaries and working conditions in steel mills, oil companies and construction projects. The number of Indians in KRG is estimated to be around 15,000. However, in the wake of security issues related to terrorist attacks on Iraq and fall of certain areas of northern Iraq to the ISIS, the Indians working in Iraq had concerns over their security. The Embassy repatriated over 6,000 people with repatriation expenditure being fully borne by the Government of India. The Embassy also assisted over 1000 Indian workers who were being repatriated by their respective companies, with required travel documents.

June 2017