Top EU diplomat seeks action against India on Russian oil ahead of talks

NEW DELHI: Ahead of his meeting with external affairs minister S Jaishankar, European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell has called for a crackdown on India for skirting western sanctions against Moscow by “reselling” Russian oil as refined fuels to Europe — a view the oil ministry recently said “shows lack of understanding of the global supply-demand dynamics and India’s long history as a major exporter of refined products”.
“If diesel or gasoline is entering Europe … coming from India and being produced with Russian oil, that is certainly a circumvention of sanctions and member states have to take measures,” Financial Times quoted Borrell as saying.
“That India buys Russian oil, it’s normal. And if, thanks to our limitations on the price of oil, India can buy this oil much cheaper, well the less money Russia gets, the better… But if they use that in order to be a centre where Russian oil is being refined and byproducts are being sold to us … we have to act,” the UK newspaper quoted him as saying.
Borrell told the newspaper he will raise the issue with his meeting with Jaishankar scheduled on Tuesday. The remarks came ahead of the India-EU trade and technology council meeting late on Tuesday.
Addressing the meeting, Jaishankar said the challenge is to address simultaneously the dual requirements of responsible growth and de-risking global economy. “This means promoting resilient and reliable supply chains and additional drivers of global production and growth. It means ensuring trust and transparency in the digital domain including cross border flows. It means embracing low-carbon growth while ensuring that this does not create critical vulnerabilities,” he said.
This though is the first time an EU official made a statement against India for its rising import of Russian crude, mostly at discount, and petro-products exports. Borrell’s statement underlines rising indignation in the West on the issue, accentuated by Finland-registered Centre for Research on Energy & Clean Air recently describing India as a “laundromat” for Russian oil.
The oil ministry had strongly objected to the report, reiterating India’s consistent stand on the issue through a series of tweets. “As a sovereign country, India is free to import or export goods and commodities within the terms of international law,” it had said.
Oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri recently said at a media function that India “has no hang ups” on where it gets oil from. “Our foremost commitment is to our citizens.”
From less than 1% before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia has become India’s top oil supplier, topping combined shipments from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the largest suppliers in the last decade, as refiners lap up discounted barrels shunned by the West.
On exports, the ministry said, “As the largest democracy and a country governed by law, companies in India are free to run their businesses as per law and the government does not put restrictions on them in their legitimate business pursuits.”
On the western price cap, the ministry said, “Oil import below $60 from Russia or elsewhere not under any international embargo. There is also no self-embargo by ‘coalition country’ on buying diesel from refiners around the world.”
India has the fourth largest refining capcity in the world. Private sector refiners Reliance Industries Ltd and Rosneft-promoted Nayara are major exporters of refined products. India has become Europe’s top supplier of products, with exports expected to top 360,000 barrels per day, according to analytics firm Kpler.

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