It is not the case that the Indian government is publicly celebrating this agreement now. Delhi has negotiated with Moscow on the supply of heavily reduced oil, as Indian Oil Minister Hardeep Sing Puri confirmed in parliament this week. Now the deal is apparently sealed, as Indian media report citing anonymous sources in the state apparatus. It is said to be importing more than three million barrels of crude oil from Russian production. A business that annoys many western countries in the beginning.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi prefers to handle this shipment of raw materials from Vladimir Putin’s empire as quietly as possible, which is not surprising given the diplomatic pressure India has been under in the days since Russia invaded Ukraine. A large number of Western governments plan to visit or virtually talk to the Prime Minister in the coming days, as the newspaper Hindus reported. The states that are in favor of the toughest possible sanctions against Russia and have already decided to do so want India on their side, but the leadership in Delhi, like other South Asian states, are hesitant about this issue when they vote on resolution, that the Russian Condemnation of the invasion, India was among the 35 countries that abstained. And even now, it seems that Modi will not be influenced by his proximity to Putin.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Delhi has been looking for a way to reconcile several goals of national importance that are becoming increasingly difficult to combine in this world situation: There is the relationship with the United States, which has been significantly strengthened over the past few years. years, driven by the concern that Beijing is gaining more and more influence in the Indian Ocean and fostering an Indian sense of surround. In addition, there are border tensions and clashes in the Himalayas with China, which also forces Delhi to be closer to Washington.
The planned agreement between India and Russia is a provocation for the West
Before the Ukraine war, there was little enthusiasm in Washington over the fact that India still bought so many weapons from Russia, but these agreements did not greatly hinder the India-US rapprochement. But now everything is different, because the United States and Europe are trying to create the largest possible alliance that will isolate Putin and drive up the price of his war – an agreement like the one India is now negotiating is considered counterproductive, almost provocative.
Nevertheless, the US government initially reacted cautiously, presumably also in view of the important strategic relationship with India. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the purchases do not appear to be in violation of sanctions, but she added a warning: “Think about which side you want to be on when this moment goes down in the history books.” Any support for Putin is also support for the invasion. It is therefore to be expected that India’s contacts with Moscow will strain relations with Washington and also with Europe.
Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin are said to be doing very well personally
Delhi has traditionally been very close to Moscow. In the 75 years since Indian independence, Moscow has always been a useful partner for Delhi. Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin are also personally said to get really good out of it, it sounds several times. The two have spoken on the phone several times since the invasion, with Modi calling for hundreds of Indian students to get a safe way out of Ukraine, and Putin calling for direct talks with Volodymyr Zelensky.
Geopolitically, Delhi’s relations with Moscow will become all the more important the closer Putin and President Xi Jinping move closer together in Beijing. From an Indian point of view, China is the great rival and also a threat. In the security mindset of the Indian elite, therefore, it is of the utmost importance not to ruin the good relationship with the Kremlin. The oil agreement is a step in this direction, but it must also allay the massive fears of the economic consequences of the war for India. The country has to import about 80 percent of its oil needs, so far only two to three percent comes from Russia. The sharp price increases in the world market make them in government nervous, high costs and supply bottlenecks threaten the recovery of the Indian economy which has already suffered hard during the corona pandemic.
A cost explosion means an existential risk, especially for the lowest classes in India, which have already suffered much under the consequences of the pandemic. “Cheaper oil from Russia could help curb production costs in India, easing inflationary pressures,” writes Global Data analyst Gargi Rao.