India is a “very key” strategic partner of the US in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region and Washington values its bilateral relationship with New Delhi, the White House has said, noting that in the context of Russia every country has to make its decision.
“We will let Indian leaders speak to their economic policies,” White House Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the Indian decision to purchase discounted oil from Russia.
“What I can just tell you is we value this bilateral relationship with India and we continue to want — obviously, every country has to make their decisions for themselves,” he said.
“These are sovereign decisions. But we want as much pressure put internationally on Russia as possible. There needs to be costs and consequences for what Mr (Vladimir) Putin is doing,” Kirby said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The US-led Western nations have imposed crippling sanctions on Russia for launching a ‘special military operation’ in neighbouring Ukraine.
Kirby underlined that India is a “very key strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region. And there are many ways that that partnership represents itself, both in defence and security, economic as well”.
According to industry data, Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia to become India’s second-biggest supplier of oil behind Iraq as refiners snap up Russian crude available at a deep discount following the war in Ukraine. Indian refiners bought about 25 million barrels of Russian oil in May, or more than 16% of all their oil imports.
There has been some disquiet in western capitals over India’s position on the Ukraine crisis as well as its decision to procure discounted Russian oil.
India is yet to condemn the Russian attack on Ukraine and has been pressing for an immediate cessation of violence and a resolution of the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue.
India, the world’s third-biggest oil-importing and consuming nation, has long defended purchases of crude oil from Russia, underlining that its volume of Russian imports are minuscule as compared to Europe’s purchases, and just a tiny fraction of the country’s total consumption.
Earlier this month, India once again asserted that its procurement of crude oil from Russia is guided by its energy security requirements.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said many countries have taken policy decisions with a similar perspective and procurement of oil from Russia is not an India-related issue.