India did not rule out buying discounted Russian crude oil on Thursday, with Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for the external affairs ministry, reminding out that some European countries continue to import energy from Russia.
At a time when the Russian economy is being hurt hard by sanctions imposed by the US and its allies over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow is apparently offering crude oil and other commodities at a discount to New Delhi. As the West attempts to isolate Putin, US officials have acknowledged India’s reliance on Russian military hardware, but have expressed a desire to see New Delhi distance itself from Moscow.
When asked if India had taken advantage of Russia’s offer of discounted crude, Bagchi did not refute the allegation, but added: “India imports the majority of its oil requirements… As a result of our importing predicament, we are constantly evaluating all options in global energy markets.
“On imports of energy from Russia – let me just underline that a lot of nations, mainly in Europe, are doing so, and for the time being I’ll leave it at that,” Bagchi said, noting that Russia has not been a large supplier of oil to India.
“We are a significant oil importer, and we are considering all options at all times because we require energy.”
The state-owned Indian Oil Corporation is said to have purchased three million barrels of crude oil from Russia at a significant discount to current global prices. European powers such as Germany have come under fire for continuing to buy energy from Russia while pressuring other countries to cut their oil purchases and economic relations with the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s in-person annual summit with Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in New Delhi on March 19 and his virtual summit with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on March 21 are both expected to address the Ukraine situation. Australia and Japan, India’s Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) partners, have both placed harsh penalties on Russia.
Both summits, according to Bagchi, would provide opportunity to assess bilateral relations as well as debate regional and global challenges.
When US undersecretary of state for political affairs Victoria Nuland and assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs Donald Lu visit India next week, the Ukraine situation is expected to be at the top of the agenda.
While acknowledging that India’s oil supplies from Russia will be exempt from US sanctions, the White House has stated that it is now up to India to decide which side of history it wishes to stand on. Washington’s message to all countries, according to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, is to adhere by the sanctions and “consider where you want to stand when the history books are written.”