Iraq eyes Indian investments in energy sector, refineries
Iraq is looking to a proposed visit by petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmenda Pradhan next month to discuss investments in energy exploration and refineries and increased oil sales to India, Iraqi ambassador Falah Abdulhasan Abdulsada said on Wednesday.
With the reconstruction of Iraq underway after the clearing of the strongholds of the Islamic State, the envoy urged Indian firms to take up opportunities in areas such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, power generation and pharmaceuticals.
Pradhan was earlier expected to visit Iraq in mid-September but the trip was put off as his Iraqi counterpart was travelling. He is now expected to visit Baghdad within the next two weeks and subsequently co-chair a meeting of the bilateral joint commission in New Delhi in November – the first since 2013.
“We are interested in Indian investments for the joint development of energy resources and our refineries,” Abdulsada said at an interaction with a small group of journalists.
For the second consecutive year, Iraq was India’s top crude oil supplier in 2018-19, meeting more than a fifth of the country’s oil needs. Official data showed Iraq sold 46.61 million tonnes of crude to India from April 2018 to March 2019, 2% more than the 45.74 million tonnes supplied in 2017-18.
Saudi Arabia has traditionally been India’s top oil source but it was dethroned by Iraq for the first time during 2017-18.
Abdulsada said Iraq’s annual oil exports to India were worth about $25 billion. With oil supplies from Iran drying up because of US sanctions, Iraq is keen to provide more crude to India, he said.
The envoy also said Iraq is ready to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia to reduce tensions between the two countries. “Countries of the region can sit and resolve problems,” he said. He added that Iraq is opposed to Israel’s participation in “any international forces in the Gulf”.
Iraq is also looking at the possibility of increasing direct flights to India by its national carrier Iraqi Airways. About 80,000 Iraqis come to cities such as New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai every year for medical treatment, drawn by lower costs, professional facilities and similarity in culture.