Within 24 hours of EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell critiquing India for “violating” the west’s sanctions on Russia, EU’s executive vice-president spoke the language of reconciliation, saying EU and India would discuss the matter as “friends... with an extended hand and not a pointed finger”. Borrell made his intemperate comments, calling for a crackdown on India, basis a report by Finland-based research agency Crea. This said, India was among countries that were called “laundromats” of Russian crude oil – alleging New Delhi was “circumventing sanctions” as EU was buying Indian diesel and petrol products made from Russian crude, notes ‘Times of India’.
The backstory is thus. As part of sanctions and to cripple Russia’s revenue from oil, G7 nations capped the price per barrel at $60 last year.
India increased its imports of Russian crude to the extent that its proportion in India’s oil imports rose to 35% by March 2023 from 1% before February 2022. India is a major supplier of oil products to Europe – its diesel exports have tripled since Russia invaded Ukraine. EU has benefited from this as India’s third largest trading partner. Oil products are a large chunk of this trade. India now exports nearly 3. 8m tonnes of oil products to EU, G7, among others. Crea contended EU was “substituting oil products they previously bought directly from Russia with same products now ‘whitewashed’ in third countries”, even suggesting “place of origin” certification for products sold to EU.
GoI outright rejected the report; the foreign minister invoked the rulebook to state that Russian crude, if substantially transformed in a third country, is not treated as Russian. Brussels correctly dialed down its executive’s attack – Borrell was seeing a breach where there was none. India is well within its right to import crude and export processed oil products, origin of crude notwithstanding.
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