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"I am smart enough to have multiple options...": EAM Jaishankar reasserts Indian stand to buy Russian oil

Munich [Germany]: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday reaffirmed India's stand and commitment to buy Russian oil despite respective sanctions on Moscow amid the military conflict with Ukraine, saying it should not be a problem for others.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing Munich security conference, Jaishankar said it's hard to have a unidimensional relationship in the contemporary world.

Amid the global furore around the death of Russian activist and known Putin baiter, Alexei Navalny, in jail, Jaishankar made the remark in response to a query on how New Delhi was balancing its growing bilateral ties with Washington while continuing to trade with Moscow.

"Is that a problem, why should that be a problem? if I am smart enough to have multiple options, you should be admiring me. Is that a problem for others? I don't think so, suddenly in this case. We try to explain what are the different pulls and pressures that countries have. it's very hard to have that unidimensional relationship," Jaishankar said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Munich conference as he stood alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock, Jaishankar expanded on India's bilateral relationship balance with the US and Russia amid an escalating diplomatic standoff between the two global powers.

"Different countries and different relationships have different histories. If I want to look at the US and Germany, it is rooted. There is an alliance, nature to it. There is a certain history on which that relationship is grounded. In our case it's very different, so I don't want you to even inadvertently give the impression that we are purely unsentimentally transactional. We are not, we get along with people, we believe in things, we share things, and we agree on some things but there are time when you are located in different places have different levels of development, and different experiences all of that gets into that," Jaishankar added.

"Life is complicated, life is differentiated. and I think it's very important today. I agree with Antony which is, good partners provide choices, smart partners take some of the choices. But sometimes, there will be choices, you say I'll pass on that," he stated further.

The 60th Munich Security Conference (MSC) got underway an in-person event from February 16-18, at its traditional venue, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich, according to an official statement.

This year's conference is being held under the chairmanship of the German Ambassador to the US, Christoph Heusgen.

Jaishankar also sought to project India as 'non-West', having extremely strong relations with Western countries that are getting stronger.

"I think, it's important today to make a distinction, between being non-West and anti-West, I'd not only characterize India as a country, which is non-West but which has an extremely strong relation with the Western countries, getting better by the days. Not everybody necessarily in that grouping might qualify for that description, but the contribution the BRICS has made, if one looks at G7 and how it evolved into the G20," he said.

"I think in a way, those additional 13 members who came into this bigger grouping, 5 of them are BRICS members, the fact that there was another group which was meeting regularly and discussing at the meeting, I think certainly was input into the expansion of G7 into the G20. So, I think we did our service to the world," the EAM added.

Earlier, in 2022, EAM Jaishankar, responding to criticism of India's purchase of Russian oil, said India's total purchase of Russian oil for one month was less than what Europe buys in one afternoon.

To a question about the Indian import of Russian oil, Jaishankar said, "If you're looking at (India's)energy purchases from Russia, I'd suggest your attention should be on Europe. We buy some energy necessary for our energy security. But I suspect, looking at figures, our purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon."

He stated further that India has made several statements articulating its position vis-a-vis the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. "Briefly what that position state is that we are against the conflict, we are for dialogue and diplomacy, we are for urgent cessation of violence and we are prepared to contribute to these objectives in whatever ways," he said.

Russia accounted for over 35 per cent of India's total crude imports in 2023, amounting to approximately 1.7 million barrels per day, according to data from S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Last year, Russia's oil exports, according to reports, reached the highest level since April 2020 in physical terms in March 2023 due to an increase in supplies of oil products, while export revenues rose by USD 1 billion compared with February to USD 12.7 billion, according to TASS, a Russian news agency.

Russia's supplies by sea grew by 0.6 million barrels per day to 8.1 mn barrels per day, the agency said, adding that deliveries of petroleum products rose by 450,000 barrels per day month-on-month to 3.1 million barrels per day. 

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