India is in talks with Moscow about increasing oil imports from Russia in an effort to keep spiraling prices in check, India’s petroleum minister told Parliament this week. The move comes as New Delhi is also striving to preserve its relationship with Moscow, its biggest supplier of weapons, at a time when India faces an aggressive China on its borders.
“I myself have had a conversation with the appropriate levels of the Russian federation,” Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s minister of gas and petroleum, told lawmakers on Monday. He said the issues being discussed included insurance, freight, and payment arrangements.
India depends on imports for about 80 percent of its oil needs, with 3 percent of that coming from Russia. India’s oil and petroleum imports from Russia amount to nearly $1 billion, Alexander Novak, Russia’s deputy prime minister, said in a statement on Friday.
Reuters reported earlier that Indian officials were in talks with Russia to import crude oil at a discounted price and that one of India’s main refineries had bought millions of barrels from the trader Vitol to be delivered in May.
Mr. Novak, after a call with Mr. Puri, said that Moscow was “interested in further attracting Indian investment to the Russian oil and gas sector and expanding Russian companies’ sales networks in India.”
As much of the world has shunned Russia and tightened economic sanctions against it since its invasion of Ukraine, India has played a tricky balancing act, simultaneously working with Ukraine and its Western allies while stopping short of voting against Russia in international forums.
India has not supported the penalties. But prospects of the United States’ fury if it deals with Russian entities under sanctions nevertheless hang over the trade between New Delhi and Moscow. The relatively small size of their trade — about $9 billion a year, less than one-tenth of Russia’s trade with its largest trading partner, China — is such that even if India helped Russia evade some of the sanctions, it would not amount to sizable relief to Moscow.
On oil, Indian officials seem to be navigating an evolving gray area and drawing on past experience of arrangements with Moscow where trade continued in local currencies. While the United States has banned Russian oil imports, the European Union has stopped short — issuing sanctions against specific companies without banning the purchase of Russian oil.