April 1 (The Guardian) – India’s external affairs minister, Dr S Jaishankar, has defended his country’s right to buy discounted oil from Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, despite an appeal from the from his UK counterpart, Liz Truss, for democracies to show solidarity against authoritarians.
He also contrasted the concern the west has shown about the invasion with what he described as the relative uninterest in the Taliban takever of Afghanistan, saying people seemed motivated by the proximity of a crisis, as much as anything.
Truss, on a visit to India, repeatedly said she was not seeking to lecture the Indians, or anyone, on how to respond to the Russian invasion, but cast the conflict as authoritarians versus democracy, a framing that should mean India should be more fully engaged as the world’s largest democracy.
Jaishankar complained there seemed to be a campaign to distort India’s attitude to discounted Russian oil. “I was just reading a report today, that in the month of March, Europe has bought, I think, 15% more oil and gas from Russia, than the month before. If you look at the major buyers of oil and gas from Russia, I think you’ll find most of them are in Europe,” he said. “When oil prices go up. I think it’s natural for countries to go out and look for what are good deals for that thing.”
Refiners in India, the world’s third biggest oil importer and consumer, have been buying Russian oil through spot tenders since Moscow’s invasion on 24 February, taking advantage of heavy discounts as other buyers back away. India has bought at least 13m barrels of Russian oil since 24 February, compared with nearly 16m barrels in all of 2021. There have been reports of private warnings by the US to India not to take advantage of a visit to India by the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to strike new deals that in effect endorsed or enabled Russia’s invasion.
Truss, sitting next to Jaishankar at a policy exchange economic forum in New Delhi, did not name India, but warned oil and gas revenues were funding Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
“It’s vitally important for freedom and democracy in Europe, that we challenge Putin, and we ensure that he loses in Ukraine,” she said. “But we also think need to think more widely about the message it would send across the globe. If Putin was successful, if he was able to have success invading a sovereign nation, what message does that send to other aggressors around the world? And I think it’s very significant in the sanctions that have been applied on Russia, along with the weapons that are being supplied to Ukraine in their fight for freedom, is we are seeing an alliance with the G7, including Japan.”
She added: “We’re also seeing countries like Australia, South Korea, Singapore, participate in those sanctions, because I think countries across the world, regardless of their specific size, status or structure, understand there is a fundamental problem if an aggressor can get away with invading a sovereign nation, and that does violate international law and violates the UN charter.”
Jaishankar argued the west had to recognise that power was being diffused around the world.
He spoke of an enormous economic rebalancing, which has taken place over the last 30 to 40 years, which has translated into a much more multipolar world, leading to the replacement of the centrality of the G7 with that of the G20. “So there’s a much broader spread of countries who have views and influence on how the world should be run,” he said.
Truss declined to call out China on Ukraine, saying: “It is clear that it respects Ukraine sovereignty. And that is an important principle that as a member of the permanent five on the security council, and a responsible nation, China needs to stick to, and therefore we shouldn’t see China supporting Russia.”
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