Trisha Shetty (Editor)

India–Iraq relations

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
India–Iraq relations

The bilateral relations between the Republic of Iraq and the Republic of India have traditionally been friendly and collaborative. Cultural interaction and economic trade between ancient India and Mesopotamia date back to 1800 BCE. The 1952 Treaty of Friendship established and strengthened ties between contemporary India and Iraq. By the 1970s, Iraq was regarded as one of India's closest allies in the Middle East.


Ties between India and Iraq were disrupted during the Iran–Iraq War, the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War. However, the bilateral relations normalised after the establishment of democratic government in Iraq.


Ties between Shias in Iraq and Shias in India.

Roots of North Indian Shi'ism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh, 1722-1859 by J.R.I. Cole.

Shi'i Indians funded the Hindiyya canal in the Iraqi city of Najaf. North India's Awadh (Oudh) state was Shi'i and it provided funding to the Iraqi Shi'i shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, channeling the money towards Persian mujtahids in the cities. The Hindiyya canal was finished in 1803 and money was able to be channeled to the Shi'i shrines cities like Najaf from India and Iran because western colonization did not touch Shi'i areas until the end of the 19th century.

Mir Jafar was an Iraqi Shia Arab from Najaf who moved to India and became the Nawab of Bengal.

The Iraqi Shia writer and poet Muzaffar Al-Nawab is of Indian descent.

Iraq was one of the few countries in the Middle East with which India established diplomatic relations at the embassy level immediately after its independence in 1947. Both nations signed the "Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship" in 1952 and an agreement of co-operation on cultural affairs in 1954. India was amongst the first to recognise the Baath Party-led government, and Iraq remained neutral during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. However, Iraq sided alongside other Gulf States in supporting Pakistan against India during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which saw the creation of Bangladesh. Nonetheless, Iraq and India continued to maintain strong economic and military ties. During the early 1980s, the Indian Air Force was training more than 120 Iraqi MiG-21 pilots. The security relationship was expanded in 1975, when the Indian Army sent training teams and the Indian Navy established a naval academy in Basra. According to one account, Indian pilots flew support missions for the Iraqi Air Force in Hussein's 1975 offensive against Kurdish separatists. India continued to provide considerable military assistance to Iraq through the Iran–Iraq war. In addition to training, India provided technical assistance to the Iraqi Air Force through a complicated tripartite arrangement involving France.

The eight-year-long Iran–Iraq War caused a steep decline in trade and commerce between the two nations. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, India was opposed to the use of force against Iraq. India stopped the refueling of military planes after the second week of war in 1991. Iraq had been one of India's largest export markets before the 1991 gulf war. It opposed UN sanctions on Iraq, but the period of war and Iraq's isolation further diminished India's commercial and diplomatic ties. From 1999 onwards, Iraq and India began to work towards a stronger relationship. Iraq had supported India's right to conduct nuclear tests following its tests of five nuclear weapons on May 11 and May 13, 1998. In 2000, the then-Vice President of Iraq Taha Yassin Ramadan visited India, and on August 6, 2002 President Saddam Hussein conveyed Iraq's "unwavering support" to India over the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. India and Iraq established joint ministerial committees and trade delegations to promote extensive bilateral co-operation.

Economic ties and Oil-for-Food Programme

India's ties with Iraq suffered due to the UN sanctions on Iraq, but India soon developed trade within the Oil-for-Food programme, which permitted Iraq to export oil for essential goods. However, a 2005 investigation of the programme revealed that the then-Indian minister of external affairs Natwar Singh and the congress party had possibly received kickbacks from the Baathist regime, leading to his resignation and at the request of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


India had preserved its neutrality over the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, criticising the lack of UN approval, but also hinted that it would consider sending troops to post-war Iraq to help maintain security and peace after a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council over the Coalition's presence and mission in Iraq. However this was ruled out after protests from public and political parties which have been opposing USA. It normalised its ties with the new democratically elected government of Iraq in 2005, seeking to restart trade and co-operation. Indian businesses applied for contracts for reconstruction projects to the Iraqi government, and more recently the activities of Iraqi businesses in India have been growing rapidly.

Iraq is one of the major suppliers of crude oil to India, exporting 220,000 barrels of oil per day to Indian Oil Corporation. In 2013 June, Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Salman Khurshid visited Iraq regarding security and business issues, the first to do so since 1990.

Iraqi Kurdistan

There has been limited diplomatic relations between India and Iraqi Kurdistan. India purchases Kurdish crude oil sold through Turkish companies. Several Indian citizens work in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many Kurds travel to India for educational or medical purposes. In July 2014, Hemin Hawrani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party's international relations wing, told the The Hindu that he hoped for deeper political and economic ties with India, describing the country as "an important partner". Hawrani also expressed his desire to see the Indian government open a consulate in Erbil, and invited Indian companies to invest in Kurdistan. In November 2014, the Indian government sent special envoy Ambassador Suresh K. Reddy to visit Kurdistan and meet Kurdish government officials. Reddy stated that India "fully supports the Kurdistan Region during this difficult time", and expressed confidence in the Kurdish government and the Peshmerga forces to preserve the stability and security of the region. The Ambassador also praised the role of Peshmerga forces in fighting ISIL, and announced that the Indian government would open a consulate in Kurdistan.


India–Iraq relations Wikipedia