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‘Russia weaponizing its energy sector’

NEW DELHI : India is set to gain from the cap on the price of Russian crude oil, a US-led move that came into effect from Monday, the European Union ambassador to India said. Ugo Astuto in an interview added that the EU respects India’s position on Russian oil imports and the constraints it faces as the world’s third largest oil buyer. But Europe is facing blatant aggression from Russia, and clear violation of the UN Charter with evidence of war crime. Edited excerpts:

What is Europe’s position on India continuing to buy Russian oil?

We respect India’s position on this issue and we understand India’s constraints. However, what we are facing in Europe is blatant aggression by Russia in a clear violation of the UN Charter by a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

We have seen significant evidence of war crimes in liberated areas of Ukraine. We are not in a ‘business as usual’ situation. What we are trying to do is to isolate Russia diplomatically and to affect the capacity of the Russia leadership to pursue its aggression.

We have seen Russia weaponizing its energy sector and food prices. It’s a deliberate policy which is totally oblivious to the consequences to the rest of the world, including the global south.

It’s important that the international community comes together and works to stop the aggression. As Prime Minister Modi said, this is not a time of war.

Are you concerned that India will suffer badly if Europe implements its price cap on Russian energy and oil supplies are disrupted?

There is a conversation ongoing with our partners globally about this price cap. Our impression is that this price cap will actually favour India in setting a maximum price. It will also give India sufficient leverage in negotiating prices with Russian suppliers.

Germany and the UK have sent naval vessels to the Indo-Pacific. Are we going to see an expanded European military footprint in the region?

The EU published its Indo-Pacific strategy a little more than one year ago.

The EU is one of the largest world economies, it’s probably the largest trade bloc, and a large portion of our trade passes through the Indo-Pacific. We also have at least one member-state (France), which is also actually an Indo-Pacific power with territory and population in the Pacific.

We believe we have a stake in the future of the Indo- Pacific and we wish to contribute to its prosperity and stability. This contribution is cross-cutting.

For example, on trade, we have a network of FTAs with Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. There is also a security and defence component, which has to be seen through the prism of the defence of the UN Charter and a rules-based approach to international relations.

This has entailed a stepping up of our presence in the region. I think we should expect more of that individually from our member-states, and probably also in a coordinated fashion.

Europe had earlier looked to sign an investment deal with China. This was later shelved for political reasons. Can you tell us about the status of this agreement?

China has sanctioned members of the European Parliament. As long as this situation lasts, the matter remains settled.

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