India will continue to purchase oil from Russia, despite the West’s growing sanctions against Moscow, as the terms on offer work to the country’s advantage, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar has indicated.

“There is a stress on energy markets…It is our fundamental obligation to ensure that the Indian consumer has best possible access on most advantageous terms to international markets. In that respect, quite honestly, we have seen that India-Russia relationship has worked to our advantage. So, what works to our advantage, I would like to keep that going,” Jaishankar said at a joint press conference after the first round of his bilateral talks on Tuesday with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Russian Trade Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov in Moscow on Tuesday.

Strengthening bilateral ties

Jaishankar also discussed the sharp growth in Indo-Russia bilateral trade this year and ways to sustain it while expressing concern over India’s growing trade imbalance and stressing on the need to address it.

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“We discussed the significant growth in bilateral trade this year and how to make it more sustainable. We are concerned by the trade imbalance and raised with the Russian side the need to address impediments that stand in the way of greater Indian exports,” Jaishankar said at a press briefing after the first round of his bilateral talks on Tuesday.

India-Russia bilateral trade jumped more than four times in the April-September 2022 period to $22.6 billion compared to $5.7 billion in the comparable period last year, according to figures released by the Commerce & Industry Ministry.

However, the rise is wholly because of 410 per cent rise in Russian exports to India to $21.3 billion in the six-month period. This is attributable to India’s increased purchase of crude and petroleum products from Russia worth $15.5 billion during the period, making Moscow one of the top suppliers of energy to the country. India’s exports of goods to Russia, on the other hand, declined 18 per cent to $1.3 billion.

“Notably, our energy and fertiliser cooperation has been strengthening and our achievements of the last few years have become a foundation to do more,” Jaishankar said.

Pressure from West

Answering a question on whether growing pressure from the West, which was intensifying its economic sanctions against Russia for its continued aggression in Ukraine, was affecting India-Russia relationship, the Indian Minister said that the big size of his delegation said it all.

As part of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), Jaishankar and Manturov discussed a range of issues including trade and investments, energy, commodities, space and nuclear programs. “It is also essential that our time-tested defence relationship continues to perform smoothly,” he said.

Jaishankar and Lavrov exchanged views on the international situation including the Ukraine conflict and the Indian Minister reiterated that the country strongly advocates a return to dialogue and diplomacy. “We are clearly on the side of peace, respect for international law and support for the UN Charter. Insofar as specific initiatives pertaining to issues like food grains and fertiliser shipments are concerned, or any other problem for that matter, India will be as helpful as we can be,” the Minister said.

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