Despite pressure from the US and its Western allies, India says it will continue to buy Russian oil as it is advantageous for the country.
Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during his meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday said buying oil from India's "steady and time-tested partner" is economically advantageous for the South Asian country.
“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.”
“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 said.
Jaishankar’s announcement came ahead of a visit by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to New Delhi later this week.
Lavrov, for his part, 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."
India has emerged as Russia’s largest oil customer after China following a boycott by Western buyers over Ukraine conflict.
Last month, India's Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri said New Delhi will continue to buy Russian oil.
Ever since April, India's crude imports from Russia have jumped over 50 times, fulfilling 10 percent of the country's demand.
The Ukraine war has caused Western countries, not least Europe, to gradually ramp down their energy purchases from Russia.
Both New Delhi and Beijing have so far refused to join Western sanctions against Russia.
India is articulating its position against the Ukraine war more robustly to counter Western criticism.
Moscow has already warned that a flow of weapons to Kiev will prolong Russia's operation.
Russia and India are also considering joint production of modern defense equipment. Last year, the two countries inked a $677-million deal to produce AK-203 assault rifles in India as part of New Delhi’s push for self-reliance in defense manufacturing.
Moscow has been New Delhi’s biggest supplier of military equipment for decades. India imported Russian defense equipment worth more than $20 billion between 2011 and 2021.
Russia and India also want to cooperate more closely in the fields of nuclear energy and space travel.
Russia launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the 2014 Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Since the onset of operations, the US and its European allies have imposed waves of sanctions on the Kremlin and sent numerous batches of advanced weapons to Ukraine. Moscow has been critical of the weapons supplies to Kiev, warning that they will prolong the war.