Making Sense of India’s Newfound Love for Russian Oil

Russian Oil Tank. © Fly Of Swallow Studio/Shutterstock

India’s love affair with Russia started a very long time in the past. India received its independence from the UK in 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru, its first prime minister, was a self-declared socialist who drew inspiration from the Soviet Union. In the a long time after independence, India swerved more and more to the left. As a end result, New Delhi developed extraordinarily shut relations with Moscow.

Only after 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, did New Delhi’s ties with Moscow weaken. In current years, India has strengthened its relationship with the US. Both democracies discover China a typical risk. Furthermore, American funding has flowed into India whereas Indian college students have flocked to the US. Indian politicians, film stars and cricketers use American social media platforms reminiscent of Twitter and YouTube to marketing campaign. Therefore, India’s neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a lot heartburn in Washington.

The current go to of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh to the US didn’t go notably properly. The Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about “monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials.” Blinken’s remark is much less about human rights abuses and extra in regards to the US disapproval of India’s Ukraine coverage and its buy of Russian oil. So, why is New Delhi risking its relations with Washington and shopping for Russian oil?

Cheap Oil Option to Counter Inflation

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has spiked world meals, fertilizer and oil costs. The common month-to-month Brent crude oil value in December 2021 was $74.17. In March 2022, this had risen to $117.25. For an vitality importer like India, this has spelled catastrophe. Inflation has shot up and the Reserve Bank of India has minimize projected progress charges for the nation. As a end result, Russia’s supply of cut-price oil has turn into enticing to India.

Given excessive costs, India shouldn’t be alone in shopping for low cost Russian oil. Hungarian, Bulgarian and Greek refineries proceed to purchase Russian oil as do many others. The Indian press experiences that  New Delhi “could be buying Russia’s flagship Urals grade at discounts of as much as $35 a barrel on prices before the war.” This is a really steep low cost that offsets American and Western sanctions. With a per capita GDP that was solely $1927.71 in 2020 and an unemployment disaster within the nation, India can not afford to forego the choice of low cost oil.

The choice of shopping for Russian oil can also be essential for an additional motive. India sources its oil from many international locations with Russia offering a tiny fraction of its vitality wants. Iraq provides 23% of India’s oil, Saudi Arabia 18% and the United Arab Emirates 11%. In 2022, exports from the US are prone to improve and meet 8% of India’s oil wants. Crucially although, India’s buy of Russian oil offers it extra leverage in opposition to different sellers. As Jaishankar rightly pointed out, India’s “total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon.” Therefore, the US fixation with Indian oil purchases from Russia appears shortsighted and misguided.

A History of Romance, A Marriage of Geopolitical Realities

As has been stated by many overseas coverage consultants, India has shared an in depth strategic relationship with Russia for a lot of a long time. Once India selected socialism, the then Soviet Union traded preferentially with India. Moscow additionally supplied and continues to supply the majority of India’s protection wants. Even at the moment, an estimated 70% of India’s protection tools comes from Russia. Perhaps much more importantly, Moscow has shared nuclear, missile and area expertise with New Delhi, enabling India to emerge as a significant energy.

In 1971, the Soviet Union and India signed an essential treaty. Later that 12 months, Moscow backed New Delhi whereas Washington backed Islamabad. India was a democracy that reluctantly went to conflict to liberate Bangladesh. In the run as much as the battle, Pakistan’s army dictatorship was conducting genocide and utilizing rape as a weapon of conflict in opposition to poor Bengalis in what was then often called East Pakistan. Russia has persistently backed India on Kashmir. In distinction, the US has frequently chided India for human rights abuses in Kashmir and brought a pro-Pakistan stance.

Even as ties with the US have improved, relations with Russia have remained essential. In 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to New Delhi to fulfill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After the go to, retired Indian diplomat Ashok Sajjanhar concluded that Putin’s temporary India journey had “reinvigorated a time-tested partnership.” Both international locations signed many agreements, paying appreciable consideration to commerce and funding relations. Traditional areas like nuclear vitality, area and protection additionally acquired consideration. Here, within the phrases of Sajjanhar “the most important decision was to commence manufacture of more than 700,000 assault AK-203 rifles with transfer of technology under the ‘Make in India’ program.”

Russia can also be serving to India indigenize its protection manufacturing of T-90 tanks and Su-30-MKI plane. Russia additionally provides spares and helps improve MiG-29-Ok plane, Kamov-31, Mi-17 helicopters, MiG-29 plane and a number of rocket launcher BM-30 Smerch. Despite an ongoing conflict with Ukraine and extreme sanctions, Russia is delivering the second regiment of S400 missile protection methods to India. 

India is in a tough neighborhood with two nuclear-armed neighbors. Both Pakistan and China declare Indian territory. The specter of a two-front conflict is an actual one for India. Therefore, good relations with Russia, its largest protection tools and expertise provider, are critically essential. This is a key motive for New Delhi to take up Moscow’s supply of low cost oil.

As an impartial nation and a rising world energy, India has to behave in its strategic curiosity. At the second, that is finest served by shopping for low cost Russian oil.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Fair Observer’s editorial coverage.

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