India, Iraq agree to go beyond buyer-seller ties partnership
Salman Khurshid, the first Indian External Affairs Minister to visit the war-ravaged Iraq in 23 years, met the country’s leadership including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki besides having talks with his counterpart Hoshyar Zebari before leaving for home after a two-day visit.
At a joint press conference, the two ministers affirmed a shared desire to revive and strengthen Indo-Iraqi ties and move beyond buyer-seller relationship - India being the largest buyer of Iraqi oil.
The Iraqi government gave an assurance that it will continue to meet India’s oil requirements in future too as the two sides decided to expand their cooperation in energy security.
Allaying India’s concern on the security situation in the country, Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari said “there are many places in the country which are peaceful and stable. We invite Indian companies to invest in such areas, like southern Iraq”.
He added, “I won’t say it is normal situation. In every business, there is an element of risk involved and risk can be manageable also. There are many opportunities”.
The Iraqi Minister underlined, “I agree with the minister that Iraq and India relations should not be of buyer-seller. It should be beyond that”.
Noting that India is the largest buyer of Iraqi oil in the world, he said “this need is continually increasing”.
“The (Iraqi) government reassured the Indian side that Iraq will meet India’s demand (for energy), even in future,” the Iraqi Minister added.
Khurshid said that both sides discussed the entire range of issue and avenues of partnership including energy security. “We just don’t want to have relationship for trade. We want to look beyond all sectors,” he said.
Khurshid added, “It is my highest priority to participate in rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq. The priority we are giving to Iraq will become more intense and stronger”.
The two leaders discussed economy, trade and cooperation in various areas like Information Technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, infrastructure and security.
Khurshid also handed a letter of invitation by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Iraqi Premier al-Maliki to visit India which he accepted.