As Iraq rebuilds itself,New Delhi has an important stake in helping its efforts
Twenty years without a direct flight connection to Iraq may seem somewhat excessive,since this disruption goes all the way back to the first Gulf War of 1991. Nevertheless,while Air India never resumed its Iraq operations,there could have been no question of direct flights in the aftermath of the Iraq war that began in 2003. Late,however,is better than never,and the DGCAs approval of four weekly Iraqi Airways flights to Baghdad and back,commencing February 12,is welcome. This will have to proceed a step at a time,but the sooner operations are extended to other Iraqi cities,such as Karbala,the better.
Iraq hosted many Indians once; its still home to several families of Indian origin,and once again to many Indian workers and professionals contributing to the countrys reconstruction. That is bulwarked not only by historical ties but renewed people-to-people contacts,academic and research cooperation,Iraqi tourists as well as students in India. After disruption and devastation,nothing helps restitution of normalcy more than the assumption of normalcy. Iraq has to move on and rebuild itself,and New Delhi has a big helping hand to offer.
That having been said,Iraq is still a volatile country. Last month itself,200 people were killed in a surge of violence,rekindling fears of civil war. The Sunni-backed Iraqiyya bloc has just ended a boycott of parliament and cabinet protesting Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikis (Shia) decision to arrest Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi (Sunni) that had stalled the government. Iraq can plunge into a political crisis any moment,but quarantining it till the last treat is extinguished will not help the fragile state. Itll certainly add to the inconvenience of Indians there. Delhi has a lot of stake in Indias third largest supplier of crude. It can play an important role in making Iraq a normal country once more.