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Vikas Kalyani asked: Given the current state of affairs in Iraq, what should be India's policy towards its relations with Iraq?

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  • Prasanta K. Pradhan replies: Iraq continues to be in a state of fluidity as it is facing regular security challenges with terrorist incidents taking place frequently. India had called back its Ambassador from Baghdad in the wake of American invasion in 2003 but continued to support the reconstruction of the country. As the situation has started improving slowly and the parliamentary elections were held successfully in March 2010, India has decided to resend its envoy to Baghdad. Thus, in the current situation India should continue with the reconstruction efforts in post war Iraq. India has already committed $20 million for assistance to Iraq under the auspices of the UN and another $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, providing scholarships and so on. As Iraq is slowly moving towards peace and stability, India should also take more steps to strengthen its ties with Baghdad. In this regard, announcing a new envoy is step in the right direction. Since 2003, high level bilateral visits between the two countries have remained limited. Iraqi Minister of Oil, Hussein Al Sharistani visited India in 2007 and Iraqi Minister of Industry and Minerals Fauzi Franso Hariri visited India in February 2010; while there have been no high level visits from India. It is time for India to look forward in this direction and resume bilateral visits as the situation improves. Similarly, India should look towards putting back on track the bilateral trade between the two countries which was hindered in the aftermath of 2003. In 2010, India imported 15 million tons of crude from Iraq. It would be in India’s interest to continue to ensure unhindered energy supply from Iraq. Thus, India’s policy should aim at restoring the old ties with Iraq which were disrupted due to external intervention and the internal instability.