On Friday, external affairs minister S Jaishankar defended India’s decision to purchase Russian oil and hit back at unfair criticism it is being subjected to.
Responding to a question at the GLOBSEC 2022 Bratislava Forum on whether India’s decision is helping Russia fund the war, Jaishankar said: “Look I don’t want to sound argumentative. If India funding Russia oil is funding the war… Tell me then buying Russian gas is not funding the war? It’s only Indian money and Russian oil coming to India funding the war and not Russia’s gas coming to Europe not funding? Let’s be a little even-handed.”
He further highlighted that the sanctions imposed by European Union have been done keeping in mind the interest of certain European nations.
“Europe is buying oil, Europe is buying gas…new package of sanctions, it is designed in a way that consideration has been given to the welfare of the population, pipeline have carveouts… if you can be considerate to yourself, you can be considerate to other people. If a Europe says, if we have to manage it in a way impact on the economy is not traumatic, that freedom should exist for other people as well,” he said.
‘Europe buys more oil than India’
In April as well Jaishankar had defended India’s move to continue energy imports from Russia amid the Ukraine war.
His statements had come in response to suggestions from the US that India should try to reduce imports of energy and other natural commodities from Russia.
In today’s event, the external affairs minister further reiterated that the government will buy best oil at cheap rates if and when they are available.
“We don’t send people to buy Russian oil, we send people to buy oil in the market, buy the best oil,” he said.
Explaining why import of crude oil has gone up Jaishankar said: “Look at the narrative that import has gone up nine times, it has gone up nine times from a very low base and it was a very low base because at that time markets were moron, why countries in Europe and West and the United States, why don’t they allow Iranian oil in the market why don’t they allow Venezuela oil to come to the market? They have squeezed every other source of oil we have and then say you will not go to the market and get the best deal for the people, it’s not a fair approach.”
He also rubbished reports of trans-shipment of Russian fuel from India.
“Understand the oil market there is an enormous shortage of oil, there is a physical shortage of oil, access to oil is difficult, a country like India would be crazy to get the oil from somebody else and sell to somebody else, this is nonsense,” Jaishankar said.
How much oil does India import
India is the world’s 3rd biggest consumer of crude and relies on imports for almost 85 per cent of its needs.
Russia fulfils just 1 per cent of this need.
Ever since the war between Russian and Ukraine broke out, India has mopped up record amounts of Russian oil at cheap price. It comprised mostly Urals crude.
So far, India has received 34 million barrels of discounted Russian oil, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
The country received more than 24 million barrels of Russian crude this month, up from 7.2 million barrels in April and about 3 million in March, and is set to receive about 28 million barrels in June, according to Refinitiv Eikon oil flows.
Energy-hungry China, too, has stepped up Russian oil purchases during the invasion despite the threat of western sanctions. However, there is a limit on how much oil India and China can realistically buy. But in the foreseeable future, Russia may continue to lure both India and China with heavy discounts to keep its oil flowing.
EU bans Russian oil
EU countries have reached agreement on their sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including a complete import ban on all Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products in six to eight months.
The EU will stop buying all Russian crude oil delivered by sea – or 2/3 of all EU imports of Russian crude – from early December, and will ban all Russian refined products two months later.
Deliveries of Russian crude via the Druzhba pipeline, which runs through Poland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, will be exempt from the embargo for an indefinite time, but Poland and Germany have said they would stop using the pipeline by year end, bringing the reduction of Russian oil imports into the EU to 90% by end-2022.
In 2021, the EU imported 48 billion euros ($51 billion) worth of crude oil and 23 billion euros of refined products from Russia.
Russian crude is much cheaper than Brent, so for the sake of fairness, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which will continue to buy Russian crude, will not be able to re-sell it, or refined products they make from it, to any other EU country.
(With inputs from agencies)