Iraq seeks India's help in reconstruction

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) India and Iraq Friday inked four agreements, including on energy cooperation, and decided to go in for joint exploration for oil and setting up of petrochemical complexes as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his visiting Iraqi counterpart Nouri-al-Maliki held talks here.

Iraq also sought India's help in reconstruction of its infrastructure devastated in the long years of war and Maliki assured Indian business leaders and companies of protection and guarantees if they work in his country. Though US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, bomb blasts triggered by militants have been shattering the peace of the country that is struggling to get back on its feet.

Manmohan Singh, in a statement after the inking of agreements, said Maliki's visit would impart a "new dynamism" to their bilateral ties.

He said both had agreed to take their energy trading relationship into a strategic partnership, including through joint ventures in oil exploration, petrochemical complexes and fertilizer plants.

Iraq is India's second largest supplier of crude at more than 12 percent of total imports, fast replacing sanctions-hit Iran. Besides energy cooperation, both sides inked an agreement on water resource management, with India to help in management of the Tigris and Euphrates and other rivers in Iraq that have suffered in the long years of war.

An MoU was signed between the respective foreign ministries on foreign office consultations and between the Foreign Service Institutes of India's external affairs ministry and the Iraqi counterpart for training of diplomats.

Manmohan Singh also offered to help in reconstruction efforts as well as in rebuilding and upgrading higher education and healthcare institutions.

Both sides have also identified other areas of cooperation, including in agriculture, water resource management, pharmaceuticals, health care, information technology, infrastructure, low cost housing and trade.

The Iraqi prime minister said his country has potential capacities and energy and India can contribute to developing the economy. Maliki, a Shiite, said Iraq has missed out a lot in the long years of war and sought cooperation from Indian private and public sector companies in helping rebuild his country's infrastructure and economy.

"Iraq is seeking the best opportunity to rebuild a democratic and modernised state," he said.

He assured Indian companies of protection and guarantees if they come to work in Iraq.

Maliki also pushed for the finalising of agreements in the field of agriculture, higher education, housing, trade, security cooperation and transport as soon as possible. He also spoke of cooperation in parliamentary affairs and in the cultural fields and counter terrorism cooperation.

Iraq has gained a lot of experience through what it has suffered and knows the method to control extremism, he said.

Earlier, while interacting with Indian business leaders, Maliki said his country was depending on India's experience for rebuilding its devastated infrastructre.

He said Iraq 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 concerns of Indian businessmen, he said India and Iraq will look at the possibility of an understanding between their respective central banks of trading in their local currencies to resolve the issue of delay in payments to exporters.

He also said Iraq is working to make the tendering process for sourcing equipment less restrictive for Indian companies, as Indian goods are not allowed to participate in tenders floated by Iraqi companies.

Maliki also called on President Pranab Mukherjee who said India remains committed to assisting Iraq in the process of rebuilding its infrastructure and institutions. Indian entrepreneurs and Indian industries are eager to engage with Iraq, the president said.

Maliki said India and Iraq complement each other. "India needs energy while Iraq needs investment to generate employment."

--Indo-Asian News service

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