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India watching events in Iraq, but wants to keep distance

Posted on Jun 14 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, June 14 : India is watching with much concern and consternation events unfold in Iraq, the world's newest hot spot of violence where Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants have overrun large swathes of area, even as it is worried over its flourishing trade ties with that country.

"We are watching the events unfold in Iraq.. But it is not our cup of tea (to get involved)," a senior official told IANS, not willing to be named.

On Friday, Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani exhorted all able-bodied Iraqis to take up arms as advancing militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took more towns and were marching towards Baghdad.

The US has ruled out sending US troops into combat in Iraq but said it was studying other military options, like military air strikes.

According to the UN, hundreds have been killed with militants carrying out summary executions of civilians in Mosul and Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's birthplace and stronghold, which they overran.

The White House in a statement Friday said that the United States "is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they're prepared to work together".

Despite the ongoing conflict in Iraq, India has an over USD 1 billion diversified export basket with Iraq - exporting around 40 commodities like foodgrain, electronic items, soaps, shampoos, household goods.

In Syria too India has a good trading relations, despite the ongoing violence in the country.

While India is keen to expand its trade ties with both Iraq and Syria, not many Indian businesspersons are willing to travel to these two violence hot spots.

"We tell Indian businesspersons to travel to Iraq, to Syria, and go and sell. But no one is willing to go there," the official added.

With the Iraqi capital Baghdad becoming a fragile place, India is planning to explore a safer area to have a consulate in, said an official source.

"We are looking at Irbil to set up a consulate.. It is a relatively quieter place," said the official. .

Irbil, with a population of 1.3 million, the fourth largest city in Iraq after Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. The city is located in Iraqi Kurdistan and lies 88 km east of Mosul. It is the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

India's trade with Jordan, which shares border with both Iraq and Syria, is doing well and India has around 15 textile companies there.

The consulate in Irbil would help boost India's trading volumes with both Iraq and Syria and also help keep contact with its mission in Jordan.

India's imports from both Iraq and Syria comprise mostly of petroleum.

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