US-Iran conflict won’t hit oil supplies to India: Iraq envoy
Iraq emerged as India’s top oil supplier, meeting almost a quarter of the country’s needs in fiscal 2017-18 and 2018-19, and displacing Saudi Arabia, which was earlier number one.Updated: Jan 11, 2020 05:30 IST
Iraq welcomes India’s call for peace and stability in West Asia against the backdrop of the Iran-US stand-off, and the tensions in the region will not affect oil supplies, Iraqi ambassador Falah Abdulhasan Abdulsada said on Friday.
Abdulsada said in an interview that all Indians living in Iraq are safe and adequate measures are in place for their security. He made it clear Iraq doesn’t want its territory to become the “theatre of bilateral conflict”.
“Iraq welcomes India’s call for peace, security and stability in the region. We also want the same,” Abdulsada said, referring to tensions following the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike last week and Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing American personnel on Wednesday.
“India is also an important energy partner for Iraq and oil supplies will not be affected by the current tensions,” he said.
Iraq emerged as India’s top oil supplier, meeting almost a quarter of the country’s needs in fiscal 2017-18 and 2018-19, and displacing Saudi Arabia, which was earlier number one. Iraq sold 26 million tonnes of oil to India during April-September 2019 and Indian oil companies have deep interests in Iraq’s oil sector.
On Thursday, India’s external affairs ministry said “peace, security and stability” in West Asia are of utmost importance to the country’s economic and security interests. “We have important interests in the region and we would like the situation to de-escalate as quickly as possible,” ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Abdulsada also said all the Indians living and working in Iraq are safe and Iraqi authorities have ensured safeguards for all expatriates in the country.
The total number of Indians in Iraq is estimated to be around 15,000 to 17,000, according to the Indian embassy in Baghdad. Most of them are in Kurdistan, Basra, Najaf and Karbala, and there are more than 6,000 Indian workers at the Karbala refinery project. An Indian advisory on Wednesday asked people to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq. However, there is no ban on Indians travelling to Iraq.
Abdulsada noted that Iraqi security forces, including the “popular mobilisation forces”, couldn’t afford to divert their attention from battling terrorists, especially Daesh or Islamic State. “Iraq reiterates to its allies in the fight against Daesh to neither draw Iraq into the bilateral conflict between the allies, nor make its territories a theatre of such bilateral conflict,” he said.
Iraq wants strong relations with the US and Iran and any deterioration of the country’s security situation would have “grave repercussions for regional and international peace”, he said.
Recent events, such as the unilateral US airstrike on the headquarters of the Iraqi Army and popular mobilisation forces at al-Qaim on December 29, led to the deterioration of the security situation and triggered a wave of public anger that was manifested in the protest outside the US embassy in Baghdad, he said.