‘India has the right to buy Russian oil’ 

Among the top buyers of Russian oil and gas are Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. India’s dependence on imported energy should not be politicised, says source

March 18, 2022 03:19 pm | Updated March 19, 2022 12:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

India’s energy majors have moved ahead with purchasing oil and gas from Russia being supplied at a ‘discount.’

India’s energy majors have moved ahead with purchasing oil and gas from Russia being supplied at a ‘discount.’ | Photo Credit: REUTERS

India on Friday strongly justified its right to go ahead with purchase of Russian energy after theU.S. urged the country to stop buying Russian oil and gas.

An informed source said India’s energy sector was dependent on large imports and that the country’s dependence on imported energy should not be “politicised.”

“Countries with oil self-sufficiency or those importing themselves from Russia cannot credibly advocate restrictive trading,” said the source, indirectly responding to the growing Western pressure to stop import of oil and gas from Russia.

The Hindu had earlier reported that India’s energy majors had moved ahead with purchasing oil and gas from Russia being supplied at a “discount.”

The assertion of India’s position came as international demand increased on India to stop purchase of Russian energy. The issue is expected to feature in talks during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s March 19-20 visit for the 14th India-Japan summit. In a statement issued on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, Ukraine will be in the agenda during his virtual meeting with Prime Minister Modi on March 21. The issue is expected to arise also during the visit of British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss which is likely later this month. All the three countries — Australia, Japan and the UK — have imposed sanctions on Russia.

The U.S. has increased diplomatic pressure on India to stop buying Russian energy.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki equated purchasing energy from Russia with “support for the Russian leadership” and said, “Also think about where you want to stand when history books are written at this moment in time.”

The Indian side argued that a large number of Western and European countries, in particular, were purchasing energy from Russia even though Moscow was carrying out an aggressive military operation across Ukraine.

Among the top buyers of Russian oil and gas are Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. The source pointed out that apart from the major countries of Europe, even frontline states such as Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Finland were importing vast quantities of Russian crude oil. 

Pressure increases

The pressure on India to stop purchase of Russian oil and gas has increased in the backdrop of intensifying attacks on Ukraine. On Friday, Russia carried out a major attack on the airport of the historic city of Lviv, near the Polish border. Similar geopolitical crises in the past, relating to Iran and Venezuela, had forced India to opt for alternative sources of energy, which came “at a higher cost,” said the source. 

The politics around energy has been a subtext to the Ukraine crisis that exploded on February 24 with the “special military operation” by the Russian forces. Soon, thereafter, Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 — a 1,230-km-long gas pipeline — that would have dramatically increased availability of Russian gas in Germany.

In this backdrop, companies with high exposure to the U.S. market cancelled orders for Russian crude and gas. This, however, freed up a large amount of Russian energy, which Moscow is making available to potential buyers at a reduced price. The source said the push to acquire Russian oil and gas was part of “competitive sourcing.” 

The Indian side has pointed out that the sanctions against Russia have been tough as they targeted President Vladimir Putin and his top officials but despite such intensity it has “carve outs” for buyers of Russian energy, which will benefit Western powers.

The Russian banks that are the key conduits for payment for energy business also continue to remain part of the SWIFT payment gateway. Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia was partially banned from SWIFT. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had described the measure as a “financial nuclear weapon”.

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