Baghdad/New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to visit India later this year on the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The invitation to the Iraqi prime minister was conveyed by visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
Maliki has accepted the invite to visit India. The visit is likely before the end of this year, said sources.
Khurshid is on a two-day official visit to Baghdad at the invitation of his Iraqi counterpart Hoshiyar Zebari. The visit is part of efforts by India to engage with Iraq at the highest level and deepen ties with the oil-rich country.
Both sides have agreed to hold a Joint Commission to be headed by their petroleum ministers – M. Veerappa Moily on the Indian side and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Energy Hussein Shahristani. The joint commission will meet in July.
The issue of import of oil from Iraq figured high in Khurshid’s talks. Iraq is currently exporting more than $20 billion worth of oil to India. However, Indian exports are only a little more than $1 billion.
Following talks, Iraq and India have also agree to move beyond buyer-seller relationship and look for more broad-based relations in energy sector including Indian investments in Iraq.
Iraqi officials said “there are no obstacles to ramping up our economic relations significantly”.
Khurshid’s visit, which comes after a gap of more than two decades after the trip of then external affairs minister I K Gujral, is seen as a precursor to a series of high-level engagements between India and Iraq.