Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has said that the bloc will act against the importation of Indian petroleum products that use Russian oil, in rare explicit criticism of India’s role in helping Russia evade Western sanctions amid the war in Ukraine.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Borell said the EU did not mind increased oil trade between Russia and India but urged a crackdown on India reselling Russian oil into Europe as refined fuel, including diesel.
India has emerged in the past year as a top buyer of Russian oil following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Access to cheap Russian crude has boosted output and profits at Indian refineries, enabling them to export refined products competitively to Europe. In recent months, reports in Reuters and Bloomberg among others, have cited mounting evidence of Indian firms buying Russian oil, refining it and selling it to Europe.
“That India buys Russian oil, it’s normal. And if, thanks to our limitations on the price of oil, India can buy this oil much cheaper, well the less money Russia gets, the better,” Borrell said in the interview. “But if they use that in order to be a centre where Russian oil is being refined and by-products are being sold to us . . . we have to act.”
Borrell said he would raise the issue with India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, when they meet on Tuesday. Jaishankar is in Brussels for the first meeting of the India-EU Trade and Technology Council.
Refined petroleum: India’s top export
Refined petroleum is India’s top export, and major restrictions on its sale would be a blow to the national economy. Such curbs might also add pressure on India to pull back from its traditionally strong relationship with Russia, which has grown economically since the start of the Ukraine war.
Indian refiners, which rarely bought Russian oil previously due to high transport costs, imported 970,000-981,000 barrels per day (bpd) of it in fiscal 2022/23 (April-March), accounting for more than a fifth of the country’s overall fuel imports.
Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft and top Indian refiner Indian Oil Corporation have also signed a deal to increase and diversify oil grades delivered to India substantially.
According to ship-tracking data from Kpler, Reliance Industries and Nayara Energy are the key Indian exporters of refined fuels and buyers of Russian oil. India typically exported an average of 154,000 barrels per day (bpd) of diesel and jet fuel to Europe before Russia invaded Ukraine. However, that has increased to 200,000 bpd after the EU completely banned Russian oil products imports from February 5 this year, data from Kpler shows.
Any mechanism to stem the flow of Russian oil would need to be implemented by the national authorities, Borrell told the FT, suggesting that the EU could target buyers of Indian refined fuels, which it believes are derived from Russian crude.
“If they sell, it is because someone is buying. And we have to look at who is buying,” he said.
Source : AlJazeera