India keen on strengthening energy ties with Russia: Modi tells summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday sought greater energy cooperation with Russia, speaking as the West presses India to abandon such imports for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“India is keen to strengthen its partnership with Russia on Arctic issues. There is also immense potential for cooperation in the field of energy,” Modi said in a virtual speech to a meeting of the 7th Eastern Economic Forum being in Vladivostok in the Far East region of Russian Siberia.

“Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, we have stressed the need to take the path of diplomacy and dialogue. We support all peaceful efforts to end this conflict. In this regard, we also welcome the recent agreement concerning the safe export of cereals and fertilizers,” he said, reiterating India’s stand about the war.

Russia can be an important partner for the Indian steel industry by supplying coking coal, said Modi. As of 2021-22 (FY22), Russia supplied just 2.4 per cent of the $13.75 billion worth coking coal India imported. In comparison, Australia supplied 69.9 percent of India’s imports, valued at $9.6 billion. Russia is the world’s sixth largest coal producer and the fifth largest consumer.

India is keen on expanding its footprint in the oil-rich Siberian region, ‘Business Standard’ reported earlier this week. Indian officials have said they will discuss with the Russian side at the forum the possibility of joint oil exploration in the region and increasing cooperation in running offshore oil and gas fields, which Western companies are exiting.

As of August, Russia was India’s third-largest oil supplier, meeting 18.2 per cent of the country’s oil needs. The share of crude from the region has continued to rise in India’s import portfolio as compared to crude of the Ural grade, India’s traditional choice. The ESPO blend of crude, Russia’s flagship crude supplied by the Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline is meant for Asia-Pacific markets and after the Ukraine war has become sought after by India and China.

India has also made significant investments in the Russian Far East in pharma and diamonds, Modi said adding connectivity would be important in the development of bilateral ties with Russia. Strengthening supply chains—bruised by the Ukraine war and Covid-19—will be key for nations, Modi said.

His comments at the forum reiterate the strategic location of Vladivostok. The regional capital of Russia’s easternmost territory, Primorsky Krai, Vladivostok is expected to become an important seaport as global warming melts northern polar caps and keeps the sea ice-free for more number of days.

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