New Delhi: External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will hold extensive talks with her Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Monday during which focus is expected to be on the issue of 39 Indians kidnapped by the Islamic State group (ISIS) three years back from Mosul city.
Al-Jaafari’s visit from 24-28 July to India comes two weeks after Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced liberation of Mosul, the second biggest city in his country, from the ISIS, which marked a major milestone for the Iraqi security forces.
In their talks, the two sides will take stock of bilateral relations and explore ways to enhance cooperation in areas of energy and trade. Iraq has been one of the major suppliers of crude oil to India. On the visit by al-Jaafari, the external affairs ministry has said the two sides will discuss the entire gamut of bilateral ties as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.
“The visit is expected to add further impetus to our mutually beneficial bilateral engagement," the MEA had said on Friday. As liberation of Mosul brightened chances of information about the kidnapped Indians, Swaraj, in a meeting with their relatives last week, had said that they might be languishing in a jail in Badush in the northwest of Mosul where fighting was going on.
However, a media report from Badush on Saturday said the jail now is an abandoned structure and has been unoccupied for weeks. Minister of state for external affairs V.K. Singh was sent to Iraq days after the Iraqi PM announced victory in the fight to liberate Mosul.
Swaraj had told the family members that an Iraqi official quoting intelligence sources had told Singh that the kidnapped Indians were deployed at a hospital construction site and then shifted to a farm before they were put in a jail in Badush.
She had said al-Jaafari may bring fresh information about the kidnapped Indians, mostly from Punjab. The volume of bilateral trade in 2016-17 was nearly $13 billion. “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)," the MEA has said.
Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan is also scheduled to meet the Iraqi foreign minister who will be accompanied by a senior-level official delegation. Al-Jafaari will travel to Mumbai on 26 July and will be back in Delhi on 27 July.