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India’s oil imports from the US are rising amid criticism of Russian purchases

FILE PHOTO: A worker holds a fuel pump nozzle to pump gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Mumbai
FILE PHOTO: A worker holds a nozzle to pump gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Mumbai, India May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

March 19, 2022

By Sanjeev Miglani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s oil imports from the United States will rise 11% this year, officials said on Saturday, as the country faces severe energy shortages trying to secure supplies from producers around the world, including heavily sanctioned Russia , to secure.

The surge in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month threatens to stoke Indian inflation, straining public finances and hurting growth just as it emerges from a pandemic-induced slowdown.

New Delhi has come under criticism from the West for its longstanding political and security ties with Moscow, with some saying engaging in deals with Russia will help fund its war. India has called for an end to violence in Ukraine but abstained on the vote against Russia.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was visiting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Saturday, said he would promote a united approach in Ukraine.

India buys most of its oil from the Middle East, but the United States has emerged as the fourth-biggest source and supplies are set to rise significantly this year, a government official on the matter told Reuters.

Iraq supplies 23% of India’s oil, followed by Saudi Arabia with 18% and the United Arab Emirates with 11%. The US share of the Indian market will rise to 8% this year, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.

Russia has been a marginal player in the Indian market, but since its Feb. 24 invasion, it has been offering discounted oil to soften the blow of sweeping sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries.

Indian Oil Corp., the country’s leading refiner, recently ordered 3 million barrels of Russian oil through a tender, while Hindustan Petroleum Corp. 2 million barrels booked for shipment in May.

India welcomes competing offers for oil sales, including from Moscow, especially when global prices have skyrocketed, another government official said, defending the decision to buy from Russia.

European countries continue to import Russian oil and gas and India cannot be stopped, the second official said.

Western sanctions have exemptions to avoid impacting energy imports from Moscow, and Russian banks that process payments for those sales remain on the SWIFT network, the official said.

The official said India’s legitimate energy transactions should not be politicized. “Countries with oil self-sufficiency or those that import from Russia themselves cannot credibly advocate restrictive trade.”

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by William Mallard)

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