Iraq seeks Indian help to rebuild country

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) India and Iraq will look at the possibility of an understanding between their respective central banks of trade in their local currencies to resolve the issue of delay in payments to exporters.

This was stated by visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamil Al-Maliki at a meeting here Friday of Iraqi and Indian business leaders organised by industry chambers Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

"We are working to resolve the problem," Al-Maliki said answering an Indian industrialist's question about exchange rate losses.

Trade in local currencies would help insulate India's oil imports from Iraq from the volatile movement of the Indian rupee against the US dollar

Iraq is also working on making the tendering process for sourcing equipments less restrictive for Indian companies, which are today left out because Indian goods are not allowed to participate in tenders floated by Iraqi companies.

The Iraqi premier invited Indian business to participate in the rebuilding of the war-weary country which is moving toward normalcy. He invited Indian businesses to engage with their counterparts in Iraq in oil exploration, setting up of refineries, petrochemicals, agriculture education and health sectors.

"We rely heavily on India for the reconstruction and development of Iraq which has been devastated by war and adventure. We are setting up democratic institutions which had been destroyed by dictatorship", Al-Maliki said.

Iraq, he said, is rich not only in oil and gas, but offered greater opportunities for India in other sectors like infrastructure, ports, airports, health and education.

Addressing the gathering, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma emphasised Iraq's growing importance in meeting India's energy needs

"Iraq has emerged as the second largest exporter of oil to India. In the coming months, no doubt it will compete for the top spot," Sharma said

India imported 24 million tonnes of crude from Iraq in 2012-13, second only to Saudi Arabia. Iraq has replaced Iran as the second largest supplier of oil following US and EU sanctions on the later.

Sharma said pharmaceuticals, health services, IT and auto components are the other areas where Iraq holds huge opportunities for Indian business.

This is the first visit by an Iraqi Prime Minister to India, and during the trip, the two countries will sign four agreements.

Two of the agreements deal with energy and water management. The other two are at the diplomatic level for enabling consultation between both countries on foreign affairs and training of diplomats at the foreign services institutions of both the countries.

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