India to continue buying oil from Russia as ties deepen

India’s foreign minister says buying oil from its ‘steady and time-tested partner’ is economically advantageous.

India will continue buying Russian oil as it is advantageous for the country, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has said during his first visit to Russia since it invaded Ukraine, in a move counter to Western efforts to cripple Russia’s economy with sanctions.

Jaishankar met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday accompanied by senior officials in charge of agriculture, petroleum and natural gas, ports and shipping, finance, chemicals and fertiliser, and trade – which he said showed the importance of ties with Russia.

“Russia has been a steady and time-tested partner. Any objective evaluation of our relationship over many decades would confirm that it has actually served both our countries very, very well,” Jaishankar said in a joint news conference.

“As the world’s third-largest consumer of oil and gas, a consumer where the levels of income are not very high, it is our fundamental obligation to ensure that the Indian consumer has the best possible access on the most advantageous terms to international markets,” he said.

“We have seen that the India-Russia relationship has worked to advantage. If it works to my advantage, I would like to keep that going,” the Indian foreign minister added.

India, which has not explicitly condemned what Russia calls its “special military operation in Ukraine”, has emerged as Russia’s largest oil customer after China following a boycott by Western buyers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar shake hands during a news conference in Moscow. [Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via Reuters]

Jaishankar’s announcement came ahead of United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to New Delhi later this week, when she is expected to discuss a Group of Seven (G7) plan to cap the price of Russian oil with Indian officials.

US officials and G7 countries have been in intense negotiations in recent weeks over the unprecedented plan to put a price cap on sea-borne oil shipments, which is scheduled to take effect on December 5 to ensure European Union and US sanctions do not throttle the global oil market.

Both New Delhi and Beijing have so far refused to join Western sanctions against Russia.

Lavrov praised the position of Russia’s “Indian friends” on Ukraine and accused Western countries of trying to consolidate a “dominant role in world affairs” and prevent “the democratisation of international relations”.

Russia and India are also considering joint production of modern defence equipment, the foreign minister was quoted by TASS news agency as saying. Last year, the two countries inked a $677m deal to produce AK-203 assault rifles in India as part of New Delhi’s push for self-reliance in defence manufacturing. India is one of the world’s largest buyers of defence equipment.

Moscow has been New Delhi’s biggest supplier of military equipment for decades. India imported Russian defence equipment worth more than $20bn between 2011 and 2021.

According to Lavrov, Russia and India also want to cooperate more closely in the fields of nuclear energy and space travel.

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