India’s imports from Russia have more than tripled since its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year largely driven by the purchase of cheap oil, a development that comes despite Western criticism of the move as the world’s largest democracy attempts to balance its energy needs, historic ties with Russia along with its growing security partnership with the West.
The total value of India’s imports from Russia has risen to $8.6 billion since February 2022, a sharp uptick from just $2.5 billion during the same period last year, the Times of India reportedciting data from the Indian commerce ministry.
Between April and May this year—as the West moved to ban Russian oil—India imported $3.2 billion worth of crude oil from Russia compared to just $210 million in March and zero in February.
Besides oil, India imported 774,000 metric tons of fertilizers from Russia in the quarter ending in June 2022, more than 20% of its total fertilizer import during this period, Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Indian parliament,
India’s decision to buy from Russia has been driven by Moscow’s decision to steeply undercut international prices for commodities it is banned from selling to the west.
As India’s inflation remained above 7%, deep discounts from Russia have offered the world’s third largest importer of oil some relief.
As the war in Ukraine has progressed, India has been careful not to pick sides as it enjoys historic close ties with Russia—its main weapons supplier—and has built a closer security partnership with the United States as it seeks to counter China’s influence on the Indo-Pacific region.
Despite some western criticism India has vehemently defended its decision to continue buying Russian oil, pointing to Europe's dependence on Russian gas imports. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in May, Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said: “In the current situation, when inflation is at an all-time high, causing stress to people all over the world, the European Union and other countries in Europe continue to buy far larger quantities than India ever thought of buying or will ever buy " Goyal also pointed out that India's purchase in no way violates any sanctions that have been put in place by the West.
While India has pointed to the European Union's consumption of Russian energy as a counterargument to criticism of its purchases, the EU has taken steps to severely curtail this. In May the EU issued its sixth sanctions package against Russia which pledged to cut “almost 90%” of all Russian oil imports by year-end, starting with an immediate ban on two-thirds of such imports. Earlier this week, prompted by Russia's unilateral slashing of supply, the EU reached a deal to cut its natural gas usage by 15%.
As it faces a swathe of sanctions targeting trade and shipping Russia is also attempting to jumpstart the ambitious International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project. The INSTC is a nearly 4,500-mile trade network of roads, railways and shipping routes that connects India and Russia via Iran. The project, which has been talked about in some form or the other since the year 2000 conducted its first trial last month as two containers carrying wood laminate sheets were sent from St. Petersburg, Russia, to the western Indian port of Mundra. While the corridor may allow Russia and Iran—which faces its own set of international sanctions—to circumvent European trade routes it is likely to face much stronger opposition from the US and Europe.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, New Delhi has attempted to sit on the geopolitical fence offering only guarded comments calling for restraint and dialog between the two countries. India's diplomatic tightrope walk is a result of its extensive reliance on Russian-made military hardware. When Putin visited India in December last year, New Delhi was quick to issue a statement hailing the two nations' "special and privileged strategic partnership." In the past few years, however, India has begun developing a closer security partnership with the United States, including the import of several key weapons systems. Both India and the United States view their partnership as an important counterbalance against a more belligerent China. India along with the US, Australia and Japan have formed a security partnership known as the Quad which Beijing has labeled derisively as “Indo-Pacific NATO.” This strategic partnership with the US has meant that India has avoided any major repercussions for its continued purchase of Russian commodities. However, the Group of Seven Nations (G7) led by the US last month said they were engaging in dialogue with India and other countries buying Russian oil to establish some sort of a price cap mechanism to prevent Moscow from benefiting from the energy crisis triggered by its own invasion.
Why India Can't Quit Russian Oil (Foreign Policy)
Why India Is Trying To Sit On The Fence In The Russia-Ukraine Conflict (Forbes)
Credit: www.forbes.com /