Tuesday, 21 March, 2023
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‘India has moral duty to consumers’ — Hardeep Singh Puri to CNN anchor on purchase of Russian oil

When asked how India would respond if pressured by the EU or US to halt Russian oil purchases, Puri said Modi govt feels no such pressure but also has back up plans ready.

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New Delhi: India is under no “moral conflict” in purchasing discounted Russian oil as the government has a duty to its consumers and will buy whatever is available in the global market, said Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri during an interview with CNN Monday.

When asked if New Delhi has any “qualms” about continuing to buy large quantities of Russian oil amid the Ukraine war, Puri said, “Let me first try and correct your perspective. [When] we ended the financial year 2022, the purchases of Russian oil were not 2 per cent but 0.2 per cent. We still buy only in a quarter what Europe buys in one afternoon.”

He added that India doesn’t only buy oil from Russia. Iraq, he added, emerged as India’s top supplier last month.

“So that there is no misunderstanding anywhere, we owe a moral duty to our consumers. We have a 1.4 billion population and we have to ensure that they are supplied with energy,” he said.

“We don’t buy from X or Y. We buy whatever is available,” added the minister.

Puri’s comments come amid reports that India’s oil imports from Russia increased to a high of 23 per cent in September from 19 per cent the previous month. Meanwhile, the share of oil imports from other regions like the Middle East, appeared to have declined.

Asked if Russian oil is imported into India, refined and then exported to Europe, Puri said, “That was done by some private sector companies not the [public sector] OMCs (oil marketing companies).”

“You’re not denying that’s happened,” pressed the anchor.

“We have nothing to do with that. First of all, the government doesn’t do the buying,” replied Puri, adding that oil trade is conducted between economic entities.

“We will buy oil and gas from wherever we can get it,” he said.

‘I don’t respond to hypotheticals’

Asked how India would respond if the European Union (EU) or US asked the Centre to halt Russian oil purchases, Puri said they should instead be confronted with that question. He added that if India or other nations stopped buying Russian oil, it would negatively impact global oil prices.

“You should address that question to the EU and the US because if India or someone else didn’t buy Russian oil and if Russian oil would have to go off the market, what would happen to international prices?” he said.

When pressed on about what India’s stance would be if pressured by the EU or US, the minister said he doesn’t respond to “hypotheticals”.

“We have a situation where Hungarian oil can come in through a pipeline and it’s exempt from a price cap. Russian oil goes through China through the pipeline – it is exempt. Japan is exempt,” he said.

He also added that India has many backup plans, should the situation arise where it is faced with the question of oil price caps or other such measures.

Adding that he recently held bilateral talks with his American counterparts, the minister said that the Narendra Modi government feels no such “pressure” and is also making efforts to transition into a green energy economy.

Also read: Russia-Ukraine war, prior orders, new importers — why India’s wheat exports ‘doubled’ despite ban


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