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New Delhi names envoy to Iraq,first time since Saddam

While the details are still being worked out,sources said,the government has taken the view that the time has come for India to upgrade its presence there.

Written by PranabDhalSamanta | New Delhi |
February 20, 2011 1:41:09 am

After a seven-year hiatus — the last Indian ambassador to Baghdad being B B Tyagi — India has finally decided to post an ambassador to Iraq. While the details are still being worked out,sources said,the government has taken the view that the time has come for India to upgrade its presence there.

B B Tyagi had left Iraq towards the end of 2004 after a hostage crisis there involving three Indian truck drivers. It was then felt that the security situation had deteriorated rapidly and that it would not be safe for the Indian mission to function in full capacity.

In fact,travel advisories were issued for Indians to not travel to Iraq in the wake of rising security threats. However,while the Indian official presence was scaled down,a Charge D’Affaires was always posted there.

The person shortlisted for the assignment by the Ministry of External Affairs is among the younger joint secretaries in South Block – K Suresh Reddy. A 1991-batch officer,Reddy is currently looking after multilateral economic relations.

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He is a trained Arabic speaker,who has previously been on assignments in Cairo,Abu Dhabi and Islamabad. Besides this,he has also been part of Bangladesh-Sri Lanka-Myanmar desk. Once the final go-ahead is received from Rashtrapati Bhawan,other diplomatic formalities will be initiated with the Iraqi government,which could take a few more months.

One of the key reasons for India to revise its earlier stand has been the fact that last year’s polls in Iraq were largely peaceful. Given that Iraq is steadily moving towards a democratic order and requires support from other like-minded countries,sources said,there was a strong case for a policy review in New Delhi.

Further,business relations between India and Iraq have been growing despite low-level official engagement. In the past few years,Indian entities have been showing interest in Iraq apart from the large Indian population in the Gulf that has been keen to take advantage of the economic opportunities in Iraq.

There is also a sizeable Indian population in the Kurdish-dominated parts of Iraq and there is an argument that the absence of a full-fledged mission in Baghdad could be detrimental in the long run.

However,the government is still concerned about the security situation which had prompted the downscaling. While the Indian mission is said to be located in the Green Zone,the upgrade will require more effort on the security front.

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