US officials have said in recent weeks that they would like India to distance itself as much as possible from Russia, while acknowledging that it is heavily dependent on Moscow for everything from weapons and ammunition to missiles and fighter jets.
One insider in India’s security apparatus said the West understands India’s position, given that it needs to well stock its military amid smoldering territorial disputes with China.
“Russia is offering oil and other goods at a deep discount. We will be happy to accept it,” said one of the representatives of the Indian government.
The official added that such trade requires preparatory work, including transportation, insurance coverage and getting the right blend of oil, but once that is done, India will accept Russia’s offer.
The officials, who declined to be named, did not say how much oil was offered or what the discount was.
The Ministry of Finance did not respond to an email asking for comment.
Russia called on countries it calls friendly to maintain trade and investment ties.
In addition to oil, India is also seeking cheaper fertilizer from Russia and its ally Belarus, one official said.
“A difficult story”
Indian officials have said they cannot suddenly replace Russia with other suppliers, especially in the defense sector.
India’s dependence on Russia in terms of military equipment still reaches 60%, despite a significant decline over the past decade.
US officials declined to say whether sanctions would be imposed on India if Russia sent S-400 missile systems in a $5.5 billion deal signed in 2018 for five of them.
The first deliveries of the system began late last year, despite a US law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware.
Eli Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security, said last week at a US congressional hearing that India is diversifying its defense suppliers.
“We recognize that India has a complicated history and relationship with Russia. Most of the weapons they buy belong to the Russians,” he said.
“The good news is that they are in a multi-year process of diversifying their arms purchases outside of Russia – this will take some time. what we have to support.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also said last week that London should develop closer economic and defense ties with India to help it reduce its dependence on Russia.
Since 2011, New Delhi has reduced imports of defense products from Russia by 53%.
D. Bala Venkatesh Varma, former Indian ambassador to Russia, said that New Delhi should not pay the price of confrontation between world powers.
“This is not a fight that we created,” he said at an online seminar on Monday.