Kurdish leadership calls for better India ties

July 03, 2014 12:41 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:24 pm IST - ERBIL:

Displaced Iraqi citizens receive meals to break their fast that are being distributed by a Kurdish charity organisation at a camp in Erbil.

Displaced Iraqi citizens receive meals to break their fast that are being distributed by a Kurdish charity organisation at a camp in Erbil.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party hopes to deepen political and economic ties with India, a top leader of the semi-independent region’s ruling party has told The Hindu . “The reality,” Hemin Hawrani, in charge of the KDP’s international relations wing, said “is that the old Iraq is dead. In the future, there may be a confederation between a Kurdish state, a Sunni state, and a Shia state, or a Partition — but we have to move forward now, and see India as an important partner.”

India has been purchasing Kurdish crude sold through Turkish companies, local media reported here last week — a move which could potentially raise hackles in Baghdad, which has long argued the region cannot independently trade oil. There is, however, little diplomatic contact between the semi-independent region and India.

“There are thousands of Indian workers in Kurdistan,” Mr. Hawrani said, “and there are many Kurds studying in India, or seeking medical treatment there. We’d like to welcome many more Indian companies to Kurdistan, and to see an Indian consulate in Erbil.”

Mr. Hawrani’s remarks come as Kurdistan, capitalising on the collapse of Iraq’s national army, has pushed forward to take control of territories it has long claimed — key among them, the oilfields of Kirkuk.

Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani — the patriarch of the KDP — has called for the country to seize the opportunity and push for full independence.

“Even without Kirkuk,” Mr. Hawrani said, “we have the ninth-largest proven oil reserves in the world, and plan to significantly boost production through the next five years. We believe we have a real contribution to make to India’s energy security.”

“The challenge before us,” Mr. Hawrani said, “is to sustain the 10 per cent-plus growth we’ve registered, the fastest in the region, despite all the wars raging around us. The worst-case scenario for us is that we have an Islamist-run state to our west, and a civil war to our south — but I think we’ve demonstrated this month that we can take care of our borders, and be a force for stability.”

Every fifth resident of Iraqi Kurdistan, Mr. Hawrani added, was now a refugee from Syria or elsewhere in Iraq. “My brother,” he said, laughing, “has two neighbours who have moved here from Bagdhad, a Shia family and a Sunni family, both of whom fled their neighbourhoods after threats from the other community.”

“For the past ten years,” Mr. Hawrani said, “we tried federalism, but instead we got growing centralisation, incompetence and corruption. Look at the reality: we’re a new nation, but only 2.8 per cent of our population live on under $1 a day, while 28 per cent of southern Iraq is below that poverty line.”

Baghdad shut off funding to Kurdistan in February, after a bruising row over the sharing of national oil revenues.

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