The issue of 39 Indians, taken hostage by ISIS in Mosul in 2014, as well as ways to enhance cooperation in key areas of energy and trade are expected to be discussed during the visit of the Foreign Minister of Iraq here next week. The External Affairs Ministry today said Ibrahim al-Jaafari will pay his first official visit to India from July 24-28 at the invitation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
"During the upcoming visit, the two sides will discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. The visit is expected to add further impetus to our mutually beneficial bilateral engagement," a MEA release said.
It also noted that bilateral trade amounted to nearly USD 13 billion in 2016-17. "Iraq contributes significantly to India's energy security and is the second-largest supplier of crude oil to us (over 37 MMT during 2016-17),” it said.
The Iraqi leader will be accompanied by a senior-level official delegation. The visit is taking place just two weeks after Mosul was liberated from the ISIS. Immediately after the announcement of Mosul's liberation, the Indian government activated various channels for locating the 39 Indians.
Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh also visited Iraq to coordinate and facilitate the return of the Indians stuck there. After his visit, Swaraj said according to the information, the Indians abducted by the ISIS in Iraq are at a jail in Badush and attempts are on to liberate them. The MEA also emphasised that India and Iraq have historically enjoyed close and friendly political, economic and cultural ties. Thousands of Indians visit Iraq annually for pilgrimage to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.