Bengaluru: The possibility of a war between America and Iran on Iraqi soil has led to tensions among the Indian community in Iraq. According to a top UN diplomat who is a citizen of India, so far, there have been no reports of any harm to Indian nationals anywhere in Iraq. About 25,000 Indians are working across Iraq, mainly in infrastructure and oil sectors. Erbil, the capital of northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, has the highest number of Indians, many of whom are into trade.
The unskilled workers engaged in infrastructure and oil-related firms are concentrated in national capital Baghdad and southern port city of Basra. The UN diplomat, speaking to News18 over telephone from Baghdad, described the situation as “tense”. “There is panic everywhere but I can confirm that all Indians are safe. I have got the confirmation from both India’s ambassador in Baghdad and the Iraqi government. The UN is also closely monitoring the situation,” he said.
The UN has unofficially advised India’s Ambassador to Iraq to not allow more Indians to the country till the situation is back to normal. The mission is still assessing the situation and is expected to take the call soon.
According to him, except a few well-paid executives with oil and infrastructure sectors, the others are semi-skilled and unskilled workforce engaged in oil, infrastructure and logistics.
“Large number of Indians are in Erbil. Some are well-off as they are into export-import business. Some professionals are also there. Kurdistan is a safe region. But the US base near Erbil has been attacked by Iran. It can lead to tensions and maybe loss of life and properties. It is a worrying thing,” he said.
After the 2014 disappearance and brutal killing of about 40 Indians by the Islamic State in Mosul, there have been no attacks on Indians anywhere in Iraq.
“In Iraq, it seems a wider conflict may start. The US Embassy was target of few Katyusha-type missiles on the night of January 4-5 Jan. The night of January 6 was quiet though Iraq was disturbed but calm. On January 7, I was out of Baghdad in Tikrit, around 180km north, and could see signs of a fragile situation that can change anytime. Today, more sophisticated missiles have been targeted at al Asad US airbase in West Iraq, around 200km from Baghdad and Erbil US airbase in Kurdish region of Iraq. Erbil is considered a safe zone and an evacuation point. These are targeted by Iran and they have issued statement through IRGC. Now, there is a direct confrontation,” the diplomat said.