India's foreign minister says government has 'moral duty' to buy cheaper oil from Russia

Washington has pressured India into reducing Russian oil imports

India's Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Bangkok on August 17, 2022. AFP
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India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar says it is the government’s moral duty to provide cheaper oil to its citizens as pressure from the US grows to shun oil supplies from Moscow.

At the ninth India-Thailand Joint Commission meeting in Bangkok on Tuesday, Mr Jaishankar said that India’s per capita income was $2,000 and with the oil and gas prices becoming “unreasonably high”, India was trying to crack the best deal.

“It is a situation today where every country will try naturally to get the best deal possible for its citizens. We will try to cushion the impact of these high energy prices. And that is exactly what we are doing.”

Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that sparked a fuel crisis and pushed global crude oil prices up, New Delhi has increased its oil imports from Russia.

India has almost tripled its oil imports from Moscow to fulfil its energy requirements, an attractive prospect because Russia is heavily discounting its oil exports.

India imports about 4.98 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), but Russia’s share of the country’s consumption has soared from below 400,000 bpd to more than 900,000 bpd, according to data from Reuters.

The rising imports have been heavily criticised by the West, which has sanctioned Moscow for waging a war against Ukraine and has put pressure on New Delhi to join its camp against Russia.

Moscow is one of Delhi’s oldest allies and its largest weapons supplier.

India is the world’s third largest oil importer and the discounted oil offered by Moscow comes as a relief to the nation of 1.3 billion, which is facing inflation at 7 per cent.

Mr Jaishankar said that India’s deal with Moscow was open to the world because the country was honest about its national interest.

“We are not doing it in a defensive way … it is my obligation, my moral duty, to actually ensure that I get them the best deal that I can from the world and once you lay it out very openly and honestly, people accept it. They may not always appreciate it,” he said.

Updated: August 17, 2022, 1:38 PM