by Zafar Iqbal

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, there has been a direct clash between Russia and the west and things have gone beyond a certain point where other states have to take sides: whether with the west or Russia. However, India which has a close strategic partnership with the US did not side with the west despite efforts on the part of the US to persuade India on two things: condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stop India purchasing Russian oil. This article looks how on one hand, India has adopted a neutral posture on Ukraine, on the other hand, it has continued buying Russian oil that has frustrated the US that portrays that India is an unreliable partner.

When Russia attacked Ukraine, the West under the US imposed stringent sanctions on Russia. However, there was a difficulty that most of the European countries depend on Russian oil and gas. By the start of March and the second week of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden announced: “We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine.”

Similarly, Washington convinced the European Union and other European allies to cut Russian oil imports in addition to sanctions aimed at hitting the Russian economy. In early May, the European Union proposed a ban on Russian oil and gas. The European Commission has devised a strategy to cut reliance on Russian oil and gas by 2030. They are working on renewable energy sources that would fulfil their 45% energy needs. Hence, Europe is working on alternative sources to cut its ties completely with Russia in the coming years.

Besides, to put pressure on Russia, the US moved a resolution in the UN General Assembly in early March. Though the resolution was passed, there were some countries which abstained from voting. Among them India and Pakistan were also included. Though relations between the US and Pakistan are not much closer that can be a reason Pakistan wanted to be away from taking any side. However, India is a strategic partner of the US and the latter had asked the former to condemn the Russian invasion of Afghanistan which India didn’t do.

Likewise, the US has time and again warned India over the imports of Russian oil, however, India has maintained its imports from Russia. India imports 6,00,000 barrels of oil daily from Russia that add considerable amount of money to the Russian exchequer. The Biden administration’s leading international energy adviser warned India not to increase discounted oil import from Russia that can create hurdles for them. India has still continued its imports of Russian oil which is causing frustration in the west. The Russian oil and gas exports have remained stable despite the sanctions and cuts in supply to Europe. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) has recently found in a report that Russia has earned $100 billion from oil and gas exports in the 100 days which has shocked the west as despite sanctions, Russia managed to export its oil and gas.

When Russia offered its oil on discounted price, India greatly benefited from it despite being a strategic ally of the US. In March, the import of Russian oil to India was three million barrels which rose to 7.2 million barrels in April. However, in May, it reached 24 million barrels, which is alarming for the west as India pours its money in the Russian exchequer that is used in its war in Ukraine. In the coming months, it seems India will further increase its oil imports from Russia. Thus, it is concluded that India didn’t care about the US interests while dealing with its strategic partner: the US. Likewise, the India approach towards the Ukraine war portrays that India is an unreliable partner of the US.

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is a Senior Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad