Iraqi PM arriving Thursday

New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is arriving in India Thursday on a four-day visit, the first such high-level bilateral visit in 38 years, an official said Wednesday.

Maliki is coming to India on the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The visit by Iraq's Shiite prime minister comes as India's oil imports from Baghdad have increased substantially. Iraq is the second-largest crude supplier to India, with oil imports standing at $20 billion. In comparison, India's oil imports from sanction-hit Iran have dipped -- now standing at eighth position

The last high-level bilateral visit to Iraq was by late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Maliki will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and the leader of opposition, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said here Wednesday.

India-Iraq bilateral trade stands at $21 billion, a quantum jump from $5 billion in 2006-07.

The visit is important as both countries are looking to take their relationship "beyond the buyer-seller relationship", said Akbaruddin.

Maliki's visit also comes a few days after the Mumbai visit by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Oil Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani.

Both countries are expected to ink an agreement in energy cooperation and water resources management, said the spokesperson.

Maliki will also address a business lunch with Assocham, CII and FICCI, he said. Maliki will also visit Agra and Mumbai.


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