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Govt has moral duty to give best deal to citizens: Jaishankar on Russian oil

External affairs minister S Jaishankar has defended India‘s decision to buy Russian oil by emphasising that the government has a moral duty to provide the best deal for the country’s citizens.

The USA is aware of India’s position and they “move on with that”, Jaishankar said during an interaction with the Indian community in Bangkok on Tuesday night.

The minister pointed out that many traditional oil suppliers of India have diverted their supplies to Europe, which is buying less oil from Russia in the aftermath of Russian invasion of Ukraine.

International oil and gas prices are “unreasonably high”, he said.

“It is a situation today where every country will try to get the best deal possible for its citizens, to try to cushion the impact of these high energy prices,” Jaishankar said in response to a query. “And that is exactly what we are doing.”

‘India Open and Honest about its Interests’

He said the Indian population cannot afford the high energy prices. “I have a country with a per capita income of $2,000,” he said. “These aren’t the people who can afford higher energy prices. It is my obligation and moral duty to ensure that I get them the best deal that I can.”

The foreign minister is in Thailand for the bilateral joint commission meeting where a number of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) are being signed.

He said India has been open and honest about its interests. “I do see that not just in the United States but including the US…they know what our position is, and they move on with that,” Jaishankar said when asked about the impact of buying Russian oil on India’s ties with the US.

“Once you lay out very openly and honestly, people accept it,” he said. “They may not always appreciate it, but once it is there and you are not trying to be too clever about it, you actually have laid out your interest in a very direct manner… My sense is that the world somewhat accepts that as reality.”

The foreign minister has defended India’s imports of Russian oil on public platforms multiple times including at a forum in Slovakia in June.

When questioned if India’s purchase of Russian oil is financing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine at that Forum, Jaishankar had responded, “Tell me, buying Russian gas is not funding the war? It’s only Indian money that funds, it’s not gas coming to Europe that funds? Let’s be a little even-handed out here.”

“If countries from the West…Europe, the US…are so concerned, why don’t they allow Iranian oil to come to the market? Why don’t they allow Venezuelan oil to come to the market?” he added.

India’s oil purchase from Russia had surged since February, with the imports surging to a record of around 950,000 barrels per day in June, according to data.

Chinese Vessel

Jaishankar also commented on the Chinese spy vessel docking in Sri Lanka during his interaction in Bangkok, saying India is monitoring the development very closely. In response to a question, the minister said, “What happens in our neighbourhood, any development which has a bearing on our security…we are monitoring it very, very carefully.”

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