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No political messaging in India’s oil purchase from Russia: EAM

He also said India has exported wheat to 23 countries so far, and the ban was put to stop speculation which was affecting the poorer countries.

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Bratislava/New Delhi:  External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday rebuffed suggestions that India’s increased oil purchase from Russia amidst the Ukraine conflict was helping fund the war, saying that Europe must see its own purchases of gas in the same light too. He also said India has exported wheat to 23 countries so far, and the ban was put to stop speculation which was affecting the poorer countries.

Asked at the GLOBESEC session titled ‘Taking Friendship to the Next Level: Allies in the Indo-Pacific’, what he had to say about India’s position on non-alignment regarding its purchase of nine times more oil from Russia amidst the Ukraine conflict, the EAM said there is no non-alignment connection in the purchase of oil from Russia.

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Slamming Europe over its purchase of gas from Russia, he said that Europe was continuing to purchase oil and gas from Russia, and the new package of sanctions by the EU had been designed “in a way in which consideration has been given to the welfare of the population”. 

He said the EU had also given timelines for the sanctions to kick in. “It’s not like tomorrow morning everything is going to be cut off… So people need to understand, if you can be considerate to yourself, surely you can be considerate to others (meaning India)”. 

“So if Europe says we have to manage it in a way in which its impact on my economy is not traumatic, that freedom of choice should exist for other people as well,” he emphasised. 

He said that no political messaging should be attached to India’s oil purchases from Russia, adding ”we don’t send people out there saying go buy Russian oil; we say go buy oil, buy the best in the market. I don’t think I would attach a political messaging to that.”

Asked if by purchasing Russian oil was not India funding the Ukraine conflict, the EAM hit back with:

“I don’t want to sound argumentative but then tell me if buying Russian gas is not funding the war? Is only Indian money for oil coming to India that funds, and not gas coming to Europe that funds?”

“Come, somewhere let’s be a little even handed out here,” he added.

He also rejected the narrative that the oil purchases have grown nine times, saying it has “gone up nine times from a very low base. And it was a very low base because at that time the markets were more open.”

Slamming the west, he continued, “And why if countries in Europe and the West and the US are so concerned, why don’t they allow Iranian oil to come into the market? Why don’t they allow Venezuelan oil to come to the market? They’ve squeezed every other source of oil we have, and then say ‘okay guys you must not go into the market and get the best deal for your people’. I don’t think that’s a very fair approach.”

To a question on India’s ban on wheat exports, and whether it was related to Russia’s ban on Ukraine exporting wheat, or “a completely different element”, he said that it was the latter, and added, “you don’t understand in the West, but it isn’t just the West; I don’t think people understand because they’re not actually tracking the wheat trade.” 

He said India has been exporting wheat, and has exported 2- 3 million tonnes last year, and in the last financial India exported seven million tonnes. “This year before the heatwave hit us very badly there was expectation that we would do substantial exports and we were open, and in fact, Prime Minister himself had said on various occasions that there is a food crisis in the world and we would like to help.”

“But what we then saw was a kind of run on our wheat, a large part of it done by international traders, based out of Singapore and I think to some degree in Dubai, and the result was actually that it hit the low income countries many of whom are our traditional buyers like our neighbours, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, these are our traditional buyers. Interestingly, the Gulf buys regularly from us …Yemen buys from us, Sudan buys from us.”

“Now what we saw was the low income buyers were being squeezed out. The wheat was actually being stocked for being traded. So in a way, our goodwill was being used for speculation. So we had to do something to stop that, because it was also impacting us at home, prices were going up. So I want to be very clear what we have done. We have actually said, look, we’re not going to give speculators an open access to the Indian market” which would impact the Indian customer and the LDC countries. 

He said that India is still open to helping “deserving countries” with wheat.

“And just for the record, I think we’ve done this year wheat exports for about 23 countries, the rate of export this year if I were to take the same period as last year, my rough sense is it’s about 4x (four times) “.

EAM said that in many cases the foreign ministers of countries have called him up and “we have assured them that they would have access to our market”.

“So it’s all about stopping and curtailing speculation, yes, and preventing diversion to higher income countries with a greater possibility to buy, because what we saw happen with the vaccines, we don’t want to see that happen with the wheat–which was the rich people got vaccinated and the poor were left out,” he said, again slamming the west over stocking of Covid vaccines and depriving the poorer countries.

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