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Biden administration in touch with India over import of Russian oil: White House

“We have been in touch, of course, with Indian leaders at a range of levels, not through the President. If that happens, we will, of course, provide that readout and information to all of you.”

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Washington/New Delhi: The Biden administration has been in touch with Indian leaders to urge New Delhi to reverse the decision of importing Russian crude amid the sanctions, the White House has said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, asked about the US’ response to reports that India is planning to purchase Russian oil at discounted prices amid the sanctions over the Ukraine war, said on Friday the US recogises that many countries have not agreed to ban import of Russian oil.

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“Well, we have not — while we made a decision about banning the Russian import of oil, every country has not made that decision, and we recognize that.” She also acknowledged that countries, including in Europe, have economic reasons to import Russian oil and gas.

“And they have different economic reasoning as to why different countries do, including some in Europe,” she said. She said the US has been in touch with Indian leaders at various levels, but not yet at the level of President Biden.

“We have been in touch, of course, with Indian leaders at a range of levels, not through the President. If that happens, we will, of course, provide that readout and information to all of you.”

“But what we would project or convey to any leader around the world is that the world — the rest of the world is watching where you’re going to stand as it relates to this conflict, whether its support for Russia in any form as they are illegally invading Ukraine,” she added.

The remarks come even as India has pointed out that despite the Western sanctions a number of countries are continuing to import energy from Russia, especially in Europe. Sources in India also pointed out that New Delhi’s legitimate energy transactions should not be politicised. “Countries with oil self-sufficiency or those importing themselves from Russia cannot credibly advocate restrictive trading.”

The sources said that India is highly dependent on imports for meeting its energy requirements. Nearly 85% of our crude oil requirement (5 million barrels a day) has to be imported. Most of the imports are from West Asia (Iraq 23%, Saudi Arabia 18%, UAE 11%). USA has also now become an important crude oil source for India (7.3%).

Imports from the US are expected to increase substantially in the current year, probably by around 11%. Its market share will be 8%. The sources also noted that the recent Western sanctions on Russia have carve outs to avoid impact on energy imports from Russia. Russian banks that are the main channels for European Union payments for Russian energy imports have not been excluded from SWIFT.

The sources said that India has to keep focusing on competitive energy sources. We welcome such offers from all producers. Indian traders too operate in global energy markets to explore best options.

On Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said: “India does import most of its oil requirements. So we are always exploring all possibilities in the global energy markets.” He said that Russia has not been a major supplier of oil to India. “I don’t think Russia has been a major supplier; but as regards import of energy from Russia, let me highlight that a number of countries are doing so, especially in Europe,” he added. According to reports, Russia is by far Europe’s largest supplier of energy. Russia’s pipeline gas exports to Europe are equivalent to about a third of global LNG trade as of 2021. If Europe were to replace all Russian pipeline gas with LNG, it would need to import about 275 bcm– which represents more than 53 percent of the global LNG trade. Europe would also need to find alternative LNG sources to replace Russian LNG. 

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