Minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar also said that India was willing to respond to any specific requests of Iraq on rehabilitation and provision of essential supplies like medicines required for helping internally displaced people. File photo: AFP
Minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar also said that India was willing to respond to any specific requests of Iraq on rehabilitation and provision of essential supplies like medicines required for helping internally displaced people. File photo: AFP

India offers to play a substantive role in rebuilding of war-torn Iraq

India is willing to play a substantive role in major projects in petrochemicals, health, education, infrastructure and other sectors in Iraq, says minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar

New Delhi: India on Wednesday offered to play a “substantive" role in the rebuilding of war-torn Iraq, listing petrochemicals, health, education and infrastructure as areas where Indian companies could pitch in.

Minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar, who is representing India at a donors and investors conference in Kuwait, also said in his speech on Wednesday that India was willing to respond to any specific requests on rehabilitation and provision of essential supplies like medicines required for helping internally displaced people.

The conference was addressed by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday. Al-Abadi in his speech estimated $88 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq, according to a Reuters news report on Tuesday.

Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in December, having taken back all the territory the jihadist group captured in 2014 and 2015. Its militants have also been largely defeated in neighboring Syria. But the fierce fighting has left thousands dead, millions displaced and almost 150,000 houses destroyed, according to the Reuters report. Rebuilding homes, hospitals, schools, roads, businesses and telecommunications is seen as the key to providing jobs for the young, reversing displacement and ending years of political and sectarian violence—something Akbar also touched upon in his speech.

“Our focus must be on both Iraq and the Iraqi, and in particular the youth. We must win both the battle and the argument. The answer to terrorism lies in security, prosperity and reaffirmation of sovereignty. The three sustain each other; any indifference or complacency towards any side of this triangle will make the rehabilitation process infructuous," Akbar said.

“Rebuilding must continue in tandem with the longer term sustainable option for the region, which has to be a comprehensive political settlement and reconciliation. Segmented and partial approaches as adopted by some have historically been at best suboptimal, and at worst, unsuccessful," Akbar added.

Describing terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism as the “scourge of the 21st century," Akbar also sounded a warning—urging the need to be united in the “defence of pluralism and civilisation without ifs and buts."

“There is no ‘good terrorism’ or ‘bad terrorism’: all terror is an unmitigated evil," the minister said—in a reference to India’s position that rejects the proposition that the IS was a worse challenge than groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba that is seen as supported by sections of authority in Pakistan to carry out anti-India operations.

“India has always supported a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal and unified Iraq," the minister said.

“We welcome Baghdad’s announcement that it is now open for investment. We will play our part with project-specific proposals. We support the important role assigned to private sector investors in rebuilding of the terrorist-affected areas in Iraq," he said.

“We are willing to play a substantive role in major projects in petrochemicals, health, education, infrastructure and other sectors. We will also look at any specific requests for rehabilitation projects and essential supplies like medicines, equipment, etc., as required for internally displaced persons as part of our assistance programme," he said.

Referring to India’s assistance to Iraq in the past, Akbar recalled that India had responded to the need for humanitarian assistance in 2016, proposing the reconstruction of the hospital in Karbala.

“India responded to the urgent needs of Iraq for relief and economic reconstruction both directly and as part of international efforts under UN auspices," the minister said noting India had extended $20 million in assistance, with supplies of milk through the World Food Programme, training of Iraqi Foreign Service officers and other Iraqi officials in information technology.

“In addition, India contributed $10 million towards the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) for investments, reconstruction and development in Iraq," he said.

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