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. Within the many years after independence, India swerved more and more to the left. Consequently, New Delhi developed extraordinarily shut relations with Moscow.

Solely after 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, did New Delhi’s ties with Moscow weaken. Lately, India has strengthened its relationship with the US. Each democracies discover China a typical menace. Moreover, 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 equivalent to Twitter and YouTube to marketing campaign. Due to this fact, India’s neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted a lot heartburn in Washington.

The latest go to of International Minister S. Jaishankar and Protection Minister Rajnath Singh to the US didn’t go significantly 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?

Low cost Oil Choice to Counter Inflation

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has spiked international meals, fertilizer and oil costs. The common month-to-month Brent crude oil worth in December 2021 was $74.17. In March 2022, this had risen to $117.25. For an power importer like India, this has spelled catastrophe. Inflation has shot up and the Reserve Financial institution of India has lower projected development charges for the nation. Consequently, Russia’s provide of cut-price oil has turn out to be engaging to India.

Given excessive costs, India isn’t 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.” It is a very 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’t afford to forego the choice of low cost oil.

The choice of shopping for Russian oil can be essential for one more motive. India sources its oil from many nations with Russia offering a tiny fraction of its power wants. Iraq provides 23% of India’s oil, Saudi Arabia 18% and the United Arab Emirates 11%. In 2022, exports from the US are more likely to enhance 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.” Due to this fact, the US fixation with Indian oil purchases from Russia appears shortsighted and misguided.

A Historical past of Romance, A Marriage of Geopolitical Realities

As has been mentioned by many international coverage specialists, India has shared a detailed strategic relationship with Russia for a lot of many years. As soon as India selected socialism, the then Soviet Union traded preferentially with India. Moscow additionally offered and continues to offer the majority of India’s protection wants. Even right now, an estimated 70% of India’s protection gear comes from Russia. Maybe much more importantly, Moscow has shared nuclear, missile and house 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 yr, Moscow backed New Delhi whereas Washington backed Islamabad. India was a democracy that reluctantly went to conflict to liberate Bangladesh. Within the run as much as the battle, Pakistan’s navy 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 constantly backed India on Kashmir. In distinction, the US has commonly chided India for human rights abuses in Kashmir and brought a pro-Pakistan stance.

Whilst 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 transient India journey had “reinvigorated a time-tested partnership.” Each nations signed many agreements, paying appreciable consideration to commerce and funding relations. Conventional areas like nuclear power, house and protection additionally acquired consideration. Right 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 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. Regardless of 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. Each Pakistan and China declare Indian territory. The specter of a two-front conflict is an actual one for India. Due to this fact, good relations with Russia, its largest protection gear and expertise provider, are critically essential. It is a key motive for New Delhi to take up Moscow’s provide of low cost oil.

As an unbiased nation and a rising international energy, India has to behave in its strategic curiosity. In the meanwhile, 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 replicate Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.

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