About Us India - Iraq Relations

             India and Iraq have historical and civilizational ties. Iraqi port of Basra was not only the market par excellence of the Indian merchandise including textiles, spices, food-grains and other commodities for the Arab world but also of the famous pearl trade that flourished mainly through the Indian traders and jewellers. Indian soldiers and railway workers from British India had played major role in ensuring the security in this region during the colonial era and have left an imprint in the region that many Iraqis still proudly claim their Indian ethnic descent.  India and Iraq have even shared agricultural practices.  The breed of the southern Iraqi Jamus or the water buffalo had been brought by Harun Al Rashid from India. The Iraqi Philosophers and Sufi saints like Hasan al Basri, Junaid Al Baghdadi and Sheikh Behlul had such an impact on the spiritual movements in India that Guru Dev Nanak Saheb came personally to Baghdad to deliberate on the ontological and the epistemological questions with Sheikh Behlul who hosted him for nearly three months.  Iraqi spiritual leader Sheikh Syed Abdul QadirJeelani has enormous following in India where he is referred to either as DastagirSaheb or Ghous-al-Azam.  On the other hand, Indians were among the foremost to patronize the Shrines and Sarai Khanas of the heritage of Islam’s primeval martyrdom at Karbala. Thousands of Indians visit the shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas in Karbala every year and also the shrine of Sheikh Abdul QadirJeelani in Baghdad.

2. Since the outbreak of war in Iraq, India has been supporting a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal and unified Iraq.  India responded to the urgent needs of Iraq for relief and economic reconstruction directly and as part of international efforts under the UN auspices.  In response to UN Secretary General’s urgent appeal, India committed US$ 20 mn for assistance to the Iraqi people in 2003.  Activities under this pledge included supply of milk powder through World Food Programme, training of Iraqi Foreign Service officers in diplomacy, and other Iraqi officials in Information Technology.  In cooperation with World Food Programme (WFP), India provided fortified biscuits to Iraqi school children and Iraqi refugees in Syria.  In addition, India contributed US$ 10 million towards the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) for investments, reconstruction and development in Iraq.Shri M. J. Akbar Minister of State for External Affairs represented India at the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait on February 14, 2018 and pronounced interests of India to the reconstruction of Iraq.

3. High-level visits: There have been several high-level political exchanges between the two countries in recent times which are summarized below:

i) General (Dr) V. K. Singh (Retd), MoS for External Affairs visited Baghdad on April 1-2, 2018 in a Special Aircraft of Indian Air Force to bring back the mortal remains of missing Indian national who were killed in Mosul. He thanked Ms.Najiha Al Shimmari, President of the Martyrs’ Foundation of Iraq for their support in locating the mass grave in Nineveh Governorate and in facilitating repatriation of the same. 

ii) Prior to this, General (Dr) V. K. Singh (Retd), MoSfor External Affairs visited Iraq three times. His first visit to Iraq was immediately after the liberation of Mosul from ISIS on July 12-14, 2017. At that time, he handed over a Letter from Hon’ble External Affairs Minister of India, Mrs. SushmaSwaraj to Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari congratulating the Iraqi Government on this victory. He also met National Security Advisor Mr. Faleh Al Fayyadhand Secretary General of the Council of Ministers of Iraq and Head of Crisis Unit Mr. Mahdi Al Alaq. He also visited Erbil and had meetings with Kurdish President MasoudBarzani and other leaders. General (Dr.) V. K. Singh’s second visit to Iraq was on October 24-31, 2017 during which he also visited Mosul. In Baghdad, he met Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari; NSA Mr. Faleh Al Fayyadh; Chief of Staff of Iraqi Armed Forces Mr. Othman Al Ghanimi; and Secretary General of the Council of Ministers of Iraq Mr. Mahdi Al Alaq. His third visit to Baghdad was on January 21, 2018 during which he met Mr. Mr. Faleh Al Fayyadh, National Security Advisor of Iraq.

iii) Dr. Adeelah Hmoud Hussein Saleem, Minister of Health of Iraq visited India from October 11-14, 2017. She was accompanied by Dr. Hazem Al Jumaily, Deputy Minister of Health and a large delegation. She met Ms. Anupriya Patel, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare and officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. She visited AIIMS, Medanta-The Medicity (Gurugram) and some other health related institutions in Delhi. Pharmexil organized an interactive session with the Iraqi delegation in New Delhi. The visit covered wide gamut of health related issues.

iv) Shri M. J. Akbar, MoS for External Affairs met Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari, Foreign Minister of Iraq in New York on the margins of UN General Assembly on September 23, 2017 and discussed bilateral relations.

v) Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari, Foreign Minister of Iraq visited India on July 24-26, 2017. In New Delhi, he had delegation level talks with EAM Smt. SushmaSwaraj on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. Dr. Jaafari called on Vice President Dr. Hamid Ansari and also had a meeting with Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (IC) for Petroleum & Natural Gas. He also visited Mumbai during the visit.

vi) Mr. Humam Al Hamoudi, Deputy Speaker of Iraqi Parliament visited India in April 2017 and had meetings with General (Retired) V. K. Singh, MoS in the Ministry of External Affairs and other leaders.

vii) Dr. HamedYounis Saleh, Deputy Oil Minister of Iraq led a delegation for the PETROTECH 2016 held in New Delhi on 5-7 December 2016.

viii). Minister of State for External Affairs Shri M.J. Akbar visited Iraq on 21-23 August 2016. During the visit, the Minister met the President of Iraq Mr. FuadMasum; Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Dr. Salim Al Jabouri; Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari, and the National Security Advisor MrFaleh Al Fayyad. He also paid a visit to the Holy city of Karbala where he had met the Chairman of the Provincial Council of Karbala, religious leaders, and members of the Indian Community.

ix). The First round of India-Iraq Foreign Office Consultations was held in New Delhi in Nov 2015. The Iraqi side was led by Mr. Nazar Al Khairallah, Deputy Foreign Minister and Indian side by Shri Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs.

4. Parliamentary Exchanges: There is Iraq-India Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Iraqi Parliament (Council of Representatives) led by Mr. Helal Al Sahlani. All of its seven members are high-profile political leaders from across the country. Mr. Osama Al Nujaifi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament had visited India in December 2012 and had meetings with Speakers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Mr. Humam Al Hamoudi, Deputy Speaker of Iraqi Parliament visited India in April 2017.

Economic and Commercial relations 

5. The economic and trade relations between India and Iraq slowed down after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, the total bilateral trade has grown steadily since 2010, mainly due to increasing crude oil imports. The value of total trade increased from US$ 5.7 billion in 2006-07 to US $ 20.52 billion in 2012-2013. Trade figures in the subsequent years declined largely due to fall in the global oil prices, however bilateral trade has actually increased in quantity, both in exports and imports. In FY 2016-17, bilateral trade with Iraq was valued at US$ 12.81 billion, accounting for about 1.95% of our total foreign trade. Iraq was our 15th largest trading partner in 2016-17. Details of India’s bilateral trade with Iraq in the last five years are summarized below:

(In $ million)

Year India’s Export to Iraq India’s imports from Iraq Total
2011-12 763.97 18,918.47 19,682.44
2012-13 1,278.13 19,247.31 20,534.44
2013-14 918.03 18,520.86 19,438.89
2014-15 829.32 14,247.66 15076.98
2015-16 1,004.39 10,837.58 11841.97
2016-17 1,115.45 11,707.94 12,823.39
2017-18
(April-Feb)
1,326.69 15,754.62 17,081.31
(Source: Department of Commerce, Government of India)

6. Iraq has consistently been among the top suppliers of crude oil to India for thelast several years. Iraq became the largest supplier of crude oil to India during theperiod April 2017 – January 2018, supplying of 38.9 MMT crude oil. In Financial Year2016-17, Iraq was the second largest source of crude oil for India, supplying of 37.5MMT crude oil, and accounting for 17.5% of India’s total oil imports. India’s publicsector oil companies, including HPCL and BPCL, are the major importers of oil fromIraq. Indian oil companies have deep interest in the Iraqi oil sector. A delegation ofONGC- Videsh Limited (ONGC-VL) led by Shri Alok Kumar Gupta visited Baghdad and Basra on February 19-23, 2018 and had fruitful discussions with Iraq Ministry of Oil and Basra Oil Company.

7. In addition to import of crude in bulk oil, India also imports commodities like raw wool and sulphur from Iraq. Indian exports to Iraq consist of cereals, iron and steel, meat and meat products, pharmaceutical products, agro chemicals, cosmetics, rubber manufactured products, paints, gems and jewellery, ceramics, manufactures of metals, machine tools, electrical machinery and instruments, transport equipment, electronic goods, handicrafts, sugar, tea, garments. A significant volume of exports takes place through Dubai and other destinations.

8. Iraq used to be the main destination of huge projects for Indian companies. In the post-war era, there is some presence of Indian companies: M/S MokulShriram JV recently has been reallocated US$235 Million project to build Al Qibla sewerage system in Basra recently; MsShapoorjiPollonji had won a US$ 85 Million contract to rebuild a Hotel in Basrah and MsLancoInfratech had won a US 81 Million EPC contract to build the Akaaz power project in Anbar Governorate.

9. The Mission organized the first Najaf-India Trade Show at the International Trade Fair ground in Najaf in September 2016 in which 34 Indian companies exhibited their products. The Trade Show was inaugurated by the Deputy Trade Minister of Iraq. The Fair was followed by B2B meetings between the businessmen of both countries at Najaf and in Baghdad.

10. Iraqi pharmaceuticals companies have been actively participating in various trade promotion events organized in India. More than 80 Indian pharmaceuticals companies are supplying medicines to the Iraqi market. A number of Indian hospitals are on the panel of Iraqi Health Ministry where the latter sends eligible Iraqi patients.Of late, a number of Indian Doctors have been coming to Iraq for short duration medical camps. Government of India is organizing an Artificial Limb Fitment Camp  in Karbala shortly in collaboration with BhagwanMahaveerVilklangSahayataSamiti, Jaipur and Al Kafeel Hospital, Karbala.

11. People to people contacts: The respect for each other’s strength has been mutual between India and Iraq. The people to people and institutional contacts are so deep that today India has become the most preferred destination for Iraqis for seeking quality medical treatment.  Hundreds of Iraqis prefer to send their children for higher education to India on self-financing basis. There is hardly a University in Iraq of which some faculty has not studied in India. About 10,000 Iraqi students have been doing their PhD, Masters and undergraduate studies in India. The Mission is currently issuing around 200 visas per day going up to 350-400 during the summer. Majority of the travellers visit India for Medical purposes, tourism, education, and for business. In the calendar year 2017, a total of 49,326 visas of different categories have been issued by the Mission. The third UN International Day of Yoga was celebrated with great enthusiasm in Baghdad on June 17, 2017.

12. Capacity building: A batch of 25 young Iraqi Diplomats attended a Special Training Course organized by Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi on January 15-25, 2018. The academic linkages in the medical and engineering fields have throughout been vibrant. In terms of capacity building, India has annually been providing assistance to Iraq under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme to train officials of the Government of Iraq.  For the year 2018-19, a total of 175 slots have been allotted under ITEC programme. In addition, India has been offering opportunity to Iraqi students for higher studies in India under ‘General Scholarship Scheme’ (GSS) organized by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). The Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC) has provided training to the Iraqi oil officials in India in various subjects related to downstream oil sector.  

13. Indian community:  Before the Gulf war in 1991, there were more than 80,000 Indian nationals in Iraq. Most of them left Iraq before the war started. After the 2003 invasion, thousands of Indian workers were recruited by contractors to provide various services to foreign military bases in Iraq. Many of them left with the deteriorating security situation in the country. With the lifting of the Government of India advisory against travel of Indians to Iraq which was in vogue from 2004 till May 2010, the number of Indian workers had steadily increased in the more stable Kurdistan region comprising Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk governorates, with better salaries and working conditions in steel mills, oil companies and construction projects. When the ISIS took over large parts of Iraq in 2014, Government of India evacuated thousands of Indian nationals from Iraq. At present, the total number of Indians in Iraq is now estimated to be around 10,000-12,000, mostly in Kurdistan region, Basra, Najaf and Karbala. About 30,000-40,000 Indians visit Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf and Samarrah in Iraq for pilgrimage annually.

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April 2018

Bilateral Relations