Luncheon with MJ Akbar, Baghdad, 2016

Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar is a veteran Indian journalist and author of several books. During his long career in journalism, he launched, as editor, India’s first weekly political news magazine, Sunday, in 1976, and two daily newspapers, The Telegraph and The Asian Age in 1989 and 1994. He has also been editorial director of India Today and The Sunday Guardian. He was the Editor-in-Chief and then Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian, a weekly newspaper that he founded, until he left to join politics full-time. He has remained associated with leading media houses and periodicals in India including India Today, Headlines Today, The Telegraph, The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, among others. I used to love his articles and editorials.

In 2005, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia appointed him as a member of the committee to draft a ten-year charter for Muslim nations on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Mr Akbar is on a visit to Baghdad. The Indian ambassador hosted a lunch reception in the honour of Mr Akbar at his residence in the afternoon. I was also invited at the reception and lunch. It’s an honour to have lunch with such a great personality. Some local leaders, dignitaries, diplomats and businessmen attended the reception. We were six Indians there from Baghdad — three from United Nations Rajesh Shrivastava, the Country Head of Toyota Motors, Vivekananda of DoJo’s, besides me.

India looks to boost ties with three countries in West Asia — Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — during the eight-day-long visit of Mr. Akbar. On the last leg of his visit, he stopped in Baghdad. He met the President of Iraq, the Speaker, and the Foreign Minister. The visit is expected to add further impetus to India’s bilateral engagement with Iraq.

The importance of Iraq to India comes from the fact that it is the largest supplier of crude oil to India, having overtaken Saudi Arabia in June, according to a Reuters report. India sources a major portion of its crude oil requirements from the Gulf region that also includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

There was no formal speech. Mr. Akbar just mingled with everyone present there and talked with them. There was an arrangement of nice lunch and drinks. The lunch was catered by DoJo’s, a restaurant in International Zone managed by my friend Vivekananda. It was delicious!

It was a nice gathering, but we had to leave soon after the lunch as we went for the reception from our office.

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