US warns India against increasing oil imports from Russia, says ‘great risk’
The US warning, indicating future possible sanctions, comes during Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's India visit.
As Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrives in India amid the Russia-Ukraine war continuing with no sign of abatement, the United States said India should not increase its oil imports from Russia and it could expose New Delhi to a "great risk". Though the senior official did not clarify what is implied through risk, reports said the US might be looking to slap sanctions on the purchase of Russian oil.
According to a Reuters report, the US apparently has no objection to India buying discounted Russian oil as it did in previous years, but there should not be any sharp rise in imports.
"We continue to engage our partners in India and around the world on the importance of a strong collective action, including strong sanctions, to press the Kremlin to end its devastating war of choice against Ukraine as soon as possible," a US state department spokesperson said.
That New Delhi is exploring a rupee-rouble payment scheme to bypass the present sanctions is also not a concern for the US authorities. "Whatever they are paying, whatever they are doing, needs to be in compliance with sanctions. If not they are exposing themselves to a great risk...As long as they are compliant with sanctions and not significantly raising purchases, we are okay," a source quoted by Reuters said.
According to a Bloomberg report, both the US and Australia -- India's Quad partners-- are somewhat disapproving of India's trade ties with Russia. "Now is the time to stand on the right side of history, and to stand with the United States and dozens of other countries, standing up for freedom, democracy and sovereignty with the Ukrainian people, and not funding and fueling and aiding President Putin’s war," US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo said.
Australia's trade minister Dan Tehan said democracies should work together "to keep the rules-based approach".
After Russian President Vladimir Putin in February authorised a special military operation on Ukraine, Russia faced unprecedented sanctions aimed to isolate them on the global platform and weaken the Russian economy.
India, the world's third-largest oil importer and consumer, has purchased at least 13 million barrels of Russian oil since Feb. 24, compared with nearly 16 million barrels in all of 2021.
(With inputs from Reuters, Bloomberg)