Attracted by discounts, the world’s third-largest crude oil importer has bought more than twice as much oil from Russia since it invaded Ukraine as in the whole of 2021, coming into spotlight at a time when Western sanctions have prompted many oil importers to shun trade with Moscow.
The European Union, the biggest buyer of Russian energy, on Wednesday proposed phasing out imports of Russian crude within six months and refined products by end-2022.
In defence of its strategy, India has been pointing out that European countries continued to import much more oil from Moscow, and that Russian crude accounted for just a fraction of India’s total consumption.
“India has been constrained to pay ever-increasing prices charged by certain oil suppliers, which is leading India to diversify its sources of procurement,” the ministry of petroleum and natural gas said.
To widen its supply basket, India said its companies have been buying energy from Russia for several years in varying quantities.
“If suddenly, now, as a huge importer of crude oil, India pulls back on its diversified sources, concentrating on the remaining, in an already constrained market, it will lead to further volatility and instability, jacking up international prices,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Despite attempts to portray it otherwise, energy purchases from Russia remain minuscule in comparison to India’s total consumption,” the ministry said.
“India’s legitimate energy transactions cannot be politicised. Energy flows are yet to be sanctioned,” it said, adding that recent news articles highlighting its oil purchases from Russia were part of a “pre-meditated attempt to further destabilise an already fragile global oil market”.
Russia is India’s biggest arms supplier and New Delhi has not explicitly condemned what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
India gets most of its energy from West Asia and the United States, which has offered to sell even more to move New Delhi away from Moscow.
“Our top 10 import destinations are mostly from West Asia. In the recent past, USA has become a major crude oil source for India, supplying almost $13 bn worth of energy imports, with almost 7.3% of market share of crude oil imports,” the ministry said.
The country consumes around 5 million barrels of crude oil a day and has bought at least 40 million barrels of Russian oil in the past two months.
Refiners in India are negotiating a six-month oil deal with Russia to import millions more barrels per month, Reuters reported last week citing sources.
“Despite challenging times, it is important for the government to ensure access to affordable energy to our citizens,” the Indian energy ministry said.