Anyone who wants to punish Russia for attacking Ukraine can easily despair of India. As the West scales back its oil deals with Russia, the country of 1.4 billion people is expanding its imports of Russian fuels. The oil embargo, which has been hotly debated in the EU, threatens to fail even before it actually starts if the energy-hungry emerging country in South Asia jumps in as a substitute buyer.
The disappointment is understandable. After all, it makes an opportunistic impression to become one of Russia’s new top customers just now, just because Ural oil is comparatively cheap.
But India doesn’t have to look far for justification: the government in New Delhi rightly points out that its imports from Russia still only account for a fraction of the multi-billion euro gas deals that Europe conducts with Russian energy companies – above all Germany.
As long as the West itself is not prepared to stop its ongoing payments to Russia, it cannot blame India for the transfers to Moscow. In any case, the rich industrialized countries have much more leeway to accept painful cuts through an embargo: Germany’s per capita income is 20 times that of India.
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Nevertheless, the global South is suffering particularly badly from the consequences of the war – without being able to do anything about it. While rising energy and food prices are a nuisance in Europe, they are threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in countries like India. No one should be surprised that the government there is using every opportunity to cushion the economic shock – and is therefore switching to cheaper oil from Russia.
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In order to nevertheless cut off the inflow of money to Russia, the expansion of so-called secondary sanctions is now being discussed in the USA. They would target not only Russia itself, but also companies from other countries doing business with Russia.
It is quite possible that this would reduce the number of Russian tankers off the Indian coast. But the West certainly doesn’t make friends with coercion. Rather than tie a friendly country closer to himself, he risks alienating it altogether.
More: India rules out involvement in Russia sanctions