India has stoutly defended its import of Russian oil amid the Ukraine condemnation with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar asserting that New Delhi’s procurement was just one-sixth of the European purchase in last nine months.
Jaishankar, during a media briefing with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, noted that Europe can’t make choices to prioritise its energy needs while asking New Delhi to do something else, asserting that discussions between India and Russia to expand the trade basket started much before beginning of the Ukraine conflict.
Jaishankar’s rebuttal came after Ukraine’s foreign minister condemned India’s ramping up of Russian oil purchases and called it “morally inappropriate". Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba told NDTV it was “completely wrong" to justify buying oil from Russia “by arguing that Europeans were doing the same".
Kuleba’s statement came in response to India defending the purchases of discounted Russian crude, saying Europe’s imports still dwarfed those of his country despite the continent’s efforts to reduce its dependence.
It was “morally inappropriate", Dmytro Kuleba said. “Because you are buying cheap oil not because of Europeans but because of us, of our suffering, of our tragedy, and because of the war that Russia launched against Ukraine," he added.
India has increased its purchases of cheap Russian oil six-fold since the invasion in February, to the extent that Moscow is now its top crude supplier.
However, Jaishankar justified India’s import of crude oil from Russia and said New Delhi and Moscow have been engaged in talks to expand trade relations much before February 24 when the Ukraine conflict began.
Jaishankar’s strong comments came as a G7 cap on the price of Russian oil at USD 60 a barrel came into effect.
“I understand that there is a conflict situation (in Ukraine). I also understand that Europe has a point of view and Europe will make the choices it will make that is Europe’s right. But for Europe to make choices which prioritises its energy needs and then ask India to do something else..," he said.
Jaishankar said Europe’s purchase of crude oil from the Middle-East is also putting pressure on prices.
“And bear in mind, today, Europe is buying a lot (of crude oil) from the Middle-East. The Middle-East was traditionally a supplier for an economy like India. So it puts pressure on prices in the Middle-East as well. We have been very very understanding of the European choices and European policies," Jaishankar said.
The external affairs minister also said Europe bought much more fossil fuel than India between February and November.
On India’s overall position on the conflict, Jaishankar said it has been “very clear and very public".
“The Indian position articulated by my prime minister is that this is not an era of war and that dialogue and diplomacy is the answer. It is a position which by the way the G20 has also accepted. It found expression in their Bali declaration," he said.
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