H.E. Mr. Fakhri Hassan Al- Issa, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in India
Asia News Agency presents excerpts from a face to face interview with the Ambassador H.E. Mr. Fakhri Hassan Al- Issa, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in India on issues of mutual interest to India and Iraq.
ANA. India and Iraq which had very close and multi-faceted relations in the past seem to have drifted away from each other. If you agree, what are the reasons behind this drift Excellency?
HE. I agree with that especially during the sixties through the nineties of the last century. Invading Kuwait by Iraqi forces led the relation between Iraq and India to drift away from each other. India disagreed with Saddam’s decision to invade Kuwait and during the period of sanctions on Iraq which lasted almost 13 years, Iraq was not allowed by the U.N. to export its oil to the world which had a negative impact on both countries’ relation. After changing the regime in 2003 and the reopening of our Embassy in 2006, we started to witness improving the relations between our countries particularly that India represents the second largest importer for Iraqi oil after China. We hope that India could participate vastly in the reconstruction of Iraq after years of negligence.
ANA. In continuation of the earlier question, please indicate the steps that are being considered to restore old warmth in Indo-Iraq relations.
HE.Besides the increases in the Trade between the two countries, there were many visits from high level Iraqi officials to India beginning with our Prime Minister Mr. Al-Maliki’s visit and other ministers which led to signing some of the agreements and MOUs in different sectors. India today is playing a major role in increasing Medical Tourism. Tens of thousands of Iraqi patients prefer to be treated in Indian hospitals for friendly and economic bases, besides major Indian medicine manufacturers are heavily involved in supplying Iraq with high quality medicines it needs.
ANA. You are aware, Excellency that Prime Minister Modi has covered almost the whole of West Asia and Gulf as part of his engaging the Middle East, but left out Iraq. How do you view this?
HE. Since 2014 Iraq suffered a lot from the regional interference that led to DAESH terrorist groups to occupy almost 40% of its territories, and that led to create unstable and unsecured security in the country. Iraqi forces organized themselves and with the participation of the Popular Mobilization Forces that work under the command of the Prime Minister, we were able to liberate many areas and reduced their occupation to less than 14 % of our land, and hopefully DAESH will be out of Iraq by the 2017. Prime Minister Modi already started to focus his intention on Iraq by sending a high level delegation represented by Minister of State for External Affairs H.E. Mr. M.J. Akber, where he had a very fruitful dialogue with the Iraqi leadership and we are expecting high levels official visits by the two leaderships within the next few months.
ANA. 39 Indians were kidnapped and taken hostage by IS long back and there is no trace of them. Our Government still believes that they are alive and in IS’s custody. India has established a Consulate in Erbil as part of its efforts to trace them. Could you indicate the assistance that your Government is extending to negotiate their release?
HE. When DAESH or ISIS took control of two major provinces of Nineva and Salah Aldeen in the northern part of Iraq, they committed a massacre that led to killing of over two thousands of Iraqis from the air base of Speicher, and other many thousands have disappeared, Intelligence sources have stated that over 22,000 Iraqis have been affected. Recently and after liberation of many cities we discovered that DAESH has used thousands of them as a slave labours to open tunnels underground in the occupied areas. I am expecting the 39 Indians are part of these thousands that disappeared Iraqis which has been used as a slave labours. Intelligence agencies of both countries are working together in order to free and release them.
ANA. India and Iran are drawing close to each other as against a big void in Indo-Iraq relations. PM Modi visited Iran and signed the Chahbahar Port agreement which open up India for exports to Afghanistan and Central Asian
countries. Excellency, are there any similar initiatives to engage India?
HE. In spite of a major Indian companies that already participated in a big projects in Iraq, such as building factory of oil pipe lines manufacturer and other in the oil field, we are expecting from India to play a major role in reconstruction of Iraq after liberating all Iraq territories from DAESH. Iraq is building the Big Port of AL-FAO province in the southern part of Iraq which will play a major route to increase the trade between the countries and open the road for India to increase its export to Europe through Turkey. Also Iraq and India could be linked through Iran railway lines or through the new port project by Iran to link Iraq with central Asia through India.
ANA. After removal of sanctions from Iran, that country is once again emerging as one of the biggest crude oil exporter to India. Your country’s oil production is also steadily increasing. What steps are being taken to restore the oil exports to India to the previous level”
HE. Iraq is increasing its Oil production steadily, besides building the required infrastructure to facilitate transporting and shipping the crude oil. However Iraq is willing to have Indian oil companies to participate in the Iraqi projects in oil refineries which Iraq is in need for. Indian companies could work with Iraq on joint venture level to execute these projects.
ANA. Iraq was one of the favourite countries for Indian workers until the war against Saddam Hussein and the rise of the IS. Do you think your Government’s plan for the restoration of damaged infrastructure will attract the Indian labour once again?
HE. Definitely the answer is Yes and already were thousands of Indian workers involved in different fields. It is just a matter of time and we will see Hundred thousands of Indians working in reconstruction of Iraq.
ANA. India’s ONGC Videsh has some expertise in exploring, developing and operating offshore oil fields and has won contracts in countries such as Vietnam, Russia, Iran and the Central Asia. Iraq itself was in the process of allotting it three oil fields. How do you view taking India’s help to repair the damaged oilfields and develop new ones?
HE. Iraq is working on a major Oil project in terms of exploring. Iraq will have the ability of producing 10-12 million of barrel of Oil within next couple of years. In fact Iraq could be the only country that has most ability of increasing its Oil production within a short period of time and Iraq could be the only country that can meet the increasing world demand of Oil with the next 20-30 years. Iraq is welcoming Indian companies to participate in Iraq Oil fields projects. I have no doubt that India will play a major role in reconstruction Iraq not only in the Oil fields projects but all other fields such as Health Care infrastructures and other civil projects.