India in talks to buy discounted Russian oil

India is exploring options for buying Russian crude oil, authorities said Tuesday, with prices plunging to record lows in the wake of a global backlash to the Ukraine conflict.

New Delhi enjoys historic diplomatic and defence ties with Moscow, hosting a rare overseas trip by President Vladimir Putin late last year, and has called for an end to the violence in Ukraine but stopped short of condemning the invasion.

Its government is looking to cut a spiralling energy bill after oil prices surged in the wake of the conflict, at the same time as a Washington embargo prompts other potential buyers to shun Russian oil.

Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the government was having conversations “at the appropriate level of the Russian Federation” regarding the purchase.

“Discussions are currently underway. There are several issues to be gone into like how much oil is available,” he told parliament.

Mr Puri added that the government was weighing issues related to insurance, freight and payment for the crude.

Many countries, including European nations, remain heavily dependent on fuel from Russia, the world’s second-largest crude oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia.

According to government data, India — the world’s third-largest crude importer — currently buys only about three per cent of its supplies from Russia.

According to local media reports, New Delhi is also trying to set up a rupee-rouble trade mechanism for paying for oil and other goods.

Crude oil prices slipped to around $100 per barrel Tuesday, extending their plunge on markets after reaching a near 14-year high last week.

The Ukraine crisis has left India facing a diplomatic dilemma after years of close ties with Russia during the Cold War, with Moscow still its biggest arms supplier.

Late last year, it began taking delivery from Russia of the S-400 missile defence system that it agreed to buy for over $5 billion in 2018, despite the threat of US sanctions.

At the same time, it needs Western support to contend with its increasingly assertive neighbour, China, in the wake of increasingly fractious territorial disputes that escalated into a deadly border clash in 2020.