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Oil embargo – Why India buys oil from Russia

China and India after embargo on the part of European states have become the main buyers of cheap Russian oil. Such actions weaken Western attempts to restrict Moscow’s financial flows to help it wage war against Ukraine. The two states have become an important pillar of Russia in the face of pressure from the United States and its allies, taking the so-called neutral position in the Russian-Ukrainian war. And although, unlike the PRC, India maintains diplomatic neutrality and does not make openly pro-Russian statements, it does not criticize the Russian Federation and abstains from voting within the UN, condemning the unprovoked attack on Ukraine. New Delhi, like Beijing, is ready to continue economic cooperation with Moscow, not wanting to join Western sanctions, but also wants to take advantage of the situation.

Maneuvers between different poles

Now “favorable neutrality” in relation toRussia’s decision put India in a fairly advantageous position: each of the major states – the United States, Russia and China – is trying to win her over to his side. The observance of strategic autonomy in foreign policy allows the country to maneuver between several different poles on issues of great importance to it. An illustration of this can be India’s belonging to organizations that create a counterbalance to each other, – pro-American Quad and Chinese-Russian SCO, RIC, BRICS.

India demonstrates commitment to a multipolar world, and in this its vision coincides with the vision of China and Russia. At one time, the initiative of the Russia-India-China strategic triangle proposed by the Russian Federation was intended precisely to limit the unipolar international order that arose after the collapse of the Soviet Union. No less controversial is the simultaneous participation in the BRICS, whose activities are aimed at weakening American influence, and the Quad, designed to balance the rise of China.

The Indian government has repeatedly pointed to geographical realitiesrelated to the problematic neighborhood with China and Pakistan, which it must take into account when building its foreign and security policy. A number of military skirmishes on the Indo-Chinese border in past years forced New Delhi to look at Beijing from the point of view of a real, not an imaginary threat.

Recently, India has become noticeably closer to the United States.. Containing China is in the interests of both Washington and New Delhi. India has become an important component of the US Indo-Pacific strategy and has expanded security cooperation with European and Asian states. However, she is not ready to give up close relations with Russia even when American partners would like to have more support from New Delhi in punishing Moscow for its war against Ukraine.

Both with the USA and Russia

Attempts by Western partners to convince the Indian authorities to support Ukraine, as well as the warning of the American administration about a sharp increase in energy imports, turned out to be futile. Even despite the fact that the Russian Federation encroached on the basic principles of the international order, which India insists on, and also creates an undesirable precedent for the forceful violation of its own borders by China. But for India, Russian aggression in Europe is a problem for the US and the West. India’s problem is China, in the containment of which relations with both the United States and Russia are important for it.

Neutrality occupied by India in relation to the Russo-Ukrainian war, is based on the calculation that strong ties with Russia will help balance China and at the same time contain Pakistan, with which Moscow has close relations. The historical parallels of traditional friendship with the Soviet Union are still alive in the Indian politicum. Russia inherited not only associations with the former USSR, but also the role of an important supplier of weapons, dependence on which plays a large role in Indo-Russian cooperation. Although in recent years India has begun to diversify its military imports and establish its own production, the military factor is a weighty argumentwhich the Indian government uses in front of the Western allies for justifications for their friendship with Moscow.

At the same time, this does not prevent New Delhi from strengthening its strategic relationship with the United States and its allies, which Russia does not like very much. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed dissatisfaction that India “is being dragged into joining the Western group against China.” In response, the Indian government emphasized that it always pursues an independent foreign policy built on its own interests, and its international relations with a particular state do not depend on relations with other states.

Benefits instead of values

Now India is a welcome partner both for Western states and for the Russian-Chinese tandem. And he makes good use of it. New Delhi defends trade relations with the Russian Federation, stressing that a halt in purchases of Russian energy products could lead to higher world prices and hurt Indian consumers. In general, India imports about 80% of crude oil, which means a lot for the development of the Indian economy. Especially now that the economy has not recovered from the negative impact of the pandemic. The government of the country justifies the growth of imports of Russian energy products with attractive prices (discounts reach 30%) and the ability to make payments in rupees. Thus, according to Kpler analysts, imports of crude oil from Russia to India rose from 100,000 barrels per day in February to 370,000 per day in April and 870,000 in May.

In the short term the country has benefited notably from access to cheaper Russian oil, as well as coal, whose imports increased sixfold. In addition, Indian companies are trying to strengthen their positions in the Russian energy market by considering buying out Shell’s 27.5% stake in the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project and ExxonMobil’s 30% stake in the Sakhalin-1 project.

Russian aggression against Ukraine has created serious economic and humanitarian problems not only in Europe but throughout the world. But India’s own benefit is more valuable than the global benefit. The fact that India is trying to get economic benefits in places where the US and European states are losing reduces its credibility as a reliable partner. On the one hand, maintaining good relations with all major states and belonging to different groups gives India the opportunity to be guided by its own national interests without joining the position of any of them. On the other hand, it makes her an uncomfortable partner who stands apart from common goals, and sometimes hinders their achievement. For example, during the recent summit, Quad partners failed to convince the Indian leadership to join the sanctions and condemn Russia’s actions. And the presence of India at the BRICS summit, which is taking place these days, reduces the ability of China and the Russian Federation to turn it into an anti-American platform.

In fact, India is a friend to all, but can be left without friends when she needs it.

Read other articles by Natalia Butyrskaya link.

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