Petroleum deal with Russia could place India on 'wrong side of history', says US


Several countries have imposed sanctions on Russia since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on February 24. Russia has tried to mitigate the resultant economic difficulties by offering petroleum at discounted rates to India.

The United States (US) on Tuesday (local time) said India would not be violating US sanctions by purchasing discounted Russian oil but added that such a move would put the world’s largest democracy on the “wrong side of history”. 

Asked about the reports of India considering a Russian offer to buy crude oil and other commodities at discount prices a week after the US banned all Russian energy imports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Joe Biden administration’s message would be for countries to abide by US sanctions.

“I don’t believe this would be violating that, but also think about where you want to stand,” Psaki said. “When the history books are written at this moment in time, support for Russia – the Russian leadership – is support for an invasion that obviously is having a devastating impact”.

India has not condemned the invasion of Ukraine and has abstained from voting at the United Nations calling out Russia’s aggression. US officials have said in recent weeks they would like India to distance itself from Russia as much as possible, while also recognizing its heavy reliance on Moscow for everything from arms and ammunition to missiles and fighter jets.

Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told Indian Petroleum Minister Hardeep Puri in a phone call that the country is keen to increase its oil and petroleum product exports to India along with Indian investments in the Russian oil sector, according to a statement issued by Russia.

A Russian government release last week had said that Russia’s oil and petroleum product exports to India have approached USD 1 billion, and there are clear opportunities to increase this figure.

“We expect to continue cooperating in the development of peaceful nuclear power, in particular, in building the nuclear power units at Kudankulam,” Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying in the statement following a phone conversation with Indian Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

According to some media reports on Monday, India’s largest refiner, Indian Oil Corp, purchased 3 million barrels of Russian crude oil, the first such transaction since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer and importer and one of the few countries not to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, currently imports 80 per cent of its oil, but only about 2 per cent to 3 per cent of those purchases come from Russia. 


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