The operation resembles a sleight of hand. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, India has massively imported low-cost Russian crude, refined it, then resold to Westerners at market price the share it does not consume, escaping the regime. Sanctions. Diesel and kerosene delivered by tankers are no longer Russian, but Indian, refined products are not deemed to come from Russia. Indian businessmen have thus set up a very lucrative trade by finally delivering Russian oil to Europe and the United States, in countries which nevertheless decreed an embargo after the invasion of Ukraine.
In one year, India has become the world’s second largest buyer of Russian crude, after China. Its orders have multiplied by twenty-two in 2022, according to Moscow, and a study by the company Vortexa specifies that in March it imported 1.64 million barrels per day. Russia now represents India’s leading supplier, accounting for around 40% of all crude oil imports from the subcontinent, compared to 1% before the war in Ukraine. These orders exceed the combined purchases from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, its two traditional suppliers.
Two private companies share half of the windfall: Reliance Industries, the Indian conglomerate of Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in Asia, close to power, and Nayara Energy, an Indo-Russian company. They have, between them, acquired 45% of all Russian oil imported by India since the invasion of Ukraine. The two companies operate in the Gulf of Kutch, on the coast of the state of Gujarat, the former stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reliance processes Russian crude at its Jamnagar complex, considered the largest refinery in the world. Nayara settled next door, in Vadinar. Other buyers include public sector giants IndianOil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum.
Most of the oil is sold on the domestic market, and has enabled New Delhi to curb inflation and contain the rise in prices at the pump. The stakes are considerable. India, the world’s third-largest crude consumer, after the United States and China, imports more than 85% of its needs. By turning to Russia, the country would have saved 3.6 billion dollars (3.3 billion euros) in the ten months following the start of the war. The information was given to Parliament by Shivkumar Udasi, an Indian MP from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, in December 2022.
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