Russia has become India’s top oil supplier in October, surpassing traditional sellers Saudi Arabia and Iraq, according to data from energy cargo tracker Vortexa. Russia, which made up for just 0.2 per cent of all oil imported by India in the year to March 31, 2022, supplied 935,556 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to India in October — the highest ever.
It now makes up for 22 per cent of India’s total crude imports, ahead of Iraq’s 20.5 per cent and Saudi Arabia’s 16 per cent.
India’s appetite for Russian oil swelled ever since it started trading on discount as the West shunned it to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
According to Vortexa, an energy intelligence firm, India imported just 36,255 barrels per day of crude oil from Russia in December 2021 as compared to 1.05 million bpd from Iraq and 952,625 bpd from Saudi Arabia.
There were no imports from Russia in the following two months but they resumed in March, soon after the Ukraine war broke out in late February.
India imported 68,600 bpd of Russian oil in March while it increased to 266,617 bpd in the following month and peaked to 942,694 bpd in June. But in June, Iraq was India’s top supplier with 1.04 million bpd of oil. Russia in that month became India’s second biggest supplier.
Imports dipped marginally in the following two months. They stood at 876,396 bpd in September before rising to 835,556 bpd in October, according to Vortexa.
Iraq slipped to No.2 slot with 888,079 bpd of supplies in October, followed by Saudi Arabia at 746,947 bpd.
The Indian government has been vehemently defending its trade with Russia, saying it has to source oil from where it is cheapest.
“In FY22 (April 2021 to March 2022), the purchases of Russian oil was 0.2 per cent (of all oil imported by India). We still buy only a quarter of what Europe buys in one afternoon,” Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told CNN in Abu Dhabi last week.
“We owe a moral duty to our consumers. We have a 1.34 billion population and we have to ensure that they are supplied with energy…whether it’s petrol, diesel.” On being asked if India faces a moral conflict due to import from Russia amid the latter’s conflict with Ukraine, he had stated: “Absolutely none. There is no moral conflict. We don’t buy from X or Y. We buy whatever is available. Government does not buy, it’s the oil companies which do the buying.”
India has also remained non-committal on a plan proposed by the G7 group of nations (UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) to cap the price of oil purchased from Russia as a means of limiting Moscow’s revenue.
Mr Puri said India will examine the proposal as and when it is finalised and communicated.
It will “respond according to its supreme national interest.” Emphasising that India would look to source crude oil from diverse sources, he had said that the country will buy from Guyana and Canada as well.