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Dinesh asked: Given the present situation what should be India's foreign policy towards Iraq?

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  • Sonia Roy replies: India and Iraq have always emphasised on their traditionally close political ties, especially since the 1970s. India and Iraq never had any hostility towards each other. The US-led invasion in 2003 and subsequent violence forced India to recall its ambassador in 2004. In March 2011, with improving internal situation following the 2010 elections, India has decided to resend its envoy to Baghdad. But at the same time, India opposed the US-led invasion.

    Since 2003, India has contributed US$10 million towards the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI), apart from providing training to Iraqi officials under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. In addition it has committed US$20 million under the United Nations framework for assistance to the Iraqi people. The goodwill aid to Iraqi reconstruction, while refraining from interfering in its internal affairs, would be a good gesture of India’s friendly approach towards Iraq.

    Since 2003, bilateral visits between the two countries have been rather limited. Iraqi Minister of Oil, Hussein Al Sharistani visited India in 2007 while the Iraqi Minister of Industry and Minerals Fauzi Franso Hariri came in 2010. There have been no reciprocal political visits to Iraq. India should look into improving political relations with Iraq and resume bilateral visits towards this end. Iraq is the third largest supplier of crude to India after Saudi Arabia and Iran and is slated to be world's biggest oil supplier by 2015. The re-construction opportunities are immensely beneficial for Indian companies. Also, the Indian government should tune its foreign policy, with emphasis on its historical ties to counter balance, or at least make a dent in China’s fast growing economic relations and the resultant influence in Iraq. With the stagnation of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, it is in India’s interest to ensure unhindered energy supply from Iraq, and making it a strategic friend in the region.

    Sonia Roy is pursuing research at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.