India is not aconduit for Russian oil sales to other countries, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday, categorically denying international media reports that suggest Indian private refiners are “profiteering” by buying Russian crude at discounted rates and then selling it to other buyers at much higher prices.
“There’s an enormous shortage of oil...Getting access to oil is difficult. A country like India would be crazy to get oil from somebody and sell it to somebody else. This is nonsense,” he said when asked about the reports at the ‘GlobeSec Bratislava Forum’ conference in the Slovak Republic on Friday.
To a question whether India was allowing the “trans-shipment of oil”, Mr. Jaishankar said he had “not even heard about anybody in India thinking along the lines of [buying Russian oil and selling it to somebody else]”. He also criticised Europe for double standards in holding India to account for buying Russian oil, while making exceptions for its own countries that import Russian oil and gas.
“Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems. But the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems,” he added in response to a question that compared India’s issues in the Indo-Pacific, and challenge from China with the situation in Europe.
In the past few days, at least two international news organisations have reported on the sharp jump in the Indian intake of crude oil from Russia, offered at discounts due to sanctions [imposed in the wake of Russian invasion of Ukraine], both referring to a report from data intelligence agency Kpler. According to one Reuters report that quoted Kpler, India’s May imports of Russian crude were nearly nine times the previous year, and June imports, estimated at 1.05 million barrels per day (bpd), would mean that Russia’s share of India’s total imports will rise to just under “one quarter” (25%), a dramatic spike considering that they were around 2% of the total last year.”
Another report by Reuters said the increased crude purchases were being processed by two refiners in Gujarat – Reliance and Nayara Energy (in which Russia’s sanctioned oil major Rosneft has a 49% stake). It said that as a result, Indian fuel exports were “15% higher” in January-June 2022, compared to the previous year.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, which Mr. Jaishankar had referred to, had called India a “key hub of Russian oil flows”, where processed oil products were allegedly finding their way to markets abroad, including the United States. In a report titled “Russian Oil Producers Stay One Step Ahead of Sanctions”, the newspaper identified what it called a specific transaction as “trade where Russian crude is refined in India and then some of it is sold to the U.S.”
Asked about the WSJ report on Thursday, Petroleum Minister Hardeep Puri said it was impossible to confirm the details. “You don’t know where one tanker [on the high seas] is coming from, where it is going. And if it is coming into our refinery. Is Russian crude coming into a private refinery and going to the U.S.? I really would never find out. There is no possibility,” he said at a briefing.
(With inputs from Damini Nath)