- US President Joe Biden told India’s Narendra Modi that buying more Russian oil isn’t in the country’s interest.
- He said Washington stands ready to help India diversify its sources of energy.
- It isn’t clear whether India has made any commitments related to its Russian energy imports.
US President Joe Biden asked India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to increase purchases of Russian oil, saying it isn’t in the country’s best interests to do so.
In an hour-long video call Monday, Biden said the US could help India diversify its sources of energy, but stopped short of making a “concrete ask” of Modi, Reuters reported, citing an official.
“The president … conveyed that we are here to help them diversify their means of importing oil. The imports from the United States are already significant, much bigger than the imports that they get from Russia,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters, according to Reuters.
India, the world’s third-largest consumer of oil, doesn’t get much of its supply from Russia. In 2021, it purchased about 12 million barrels from Russia, making up only 2% of its total imports.
“The president also made clear that he doesn’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate, or increase imports of Russian energy, or other commodities,” Psaki added.
Psaki didn’t specify whether India had made any commitment towards Russian energy imports.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has led the US and its allies to impose sweeping sanctions, including bans on oil and other commodities. Oil is a key source of revenue for Russia, the world’s third-largest producer, but it has fallen out of favor with a number of its consumers.
Both the US and the UK have banned Russian oil imports. The European Union hasn’t yet done so because it’s more reliant on Russian supplies.
Beyond Europe, India and China have been buying cargoes of cheap Russian oil. Neither country has overtly condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. But Psaki said India has now spoken out more forcefully against reported atrocities, “particularly as it relates to the horrific photos that we saw around Bucha.”
“Recently, the news of the killings of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha was very worrying,” Modi said on Monday. “We immediately condemned it and have asked for an independent probe.”
Modi said he had recently suggested to Russia that President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy hold direct talks.
Still, unlike other members of the Quad countries – the US, Japan, and Australia — India hasn’t imposed direct sanctions on Russia. It’s purchased at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude since the invasion, according to Reuters.
India abstained when the UN General Assembly last week voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council over its atrocities in Ukraine.
Indian external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Monday defended India’s oil purchases from Russia.
“I suspect, looking at the figures, probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon,” he said.
A US official told Reuters that “we haven’t asked India to do anything in particular,” adding that the Modi government will make its own judgments after a candid conversation.
“We’ve seen them take steps to provide humanitarian assistance and a range of assistance, but it is something we always encourage leaders to do – to speak out, to be vocal, to ensure they are on the right side of history,” Psaki said about the Indian government.
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