Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid would be travelling to Iraq this week, which would be the first high level official visit in 23 years. The visit comes in the backdrop of India becoming the second largest importer of Iraqi oil, as New Delhi replaces supplies from sanctions-hit Iran. The Ministry of External Affairs said Khurshid would be in Baghdad on June 19 and 20 on an invite from Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. The last visit by an External Affairs Minister was by I K Gujral in 1990, in connection with the evacuation of Indian nationals during the invasion of Kuwait.
Energy security is high on Khurshid’s visit as India has emerged as Iraq’s biggest importer along with the US. According to official records, Indian oil refineries have been buying up to 19 per cent of Iraqi oil production.
Iraq is now the second largest supplier of crude to India, which has been forced to cut down its import of Iranian oil due to the US sanctions.
“This forthcoming visit is expected to add an impetus to our bilateral relations and elevate our ties to a higher level for the mutual benefit the people of our two countries,” the MEA said in a press release, adding that India remained “committed to support the ongoing post-war reconstruction and development efforts in the war -torn country”.