India and Russia have agreed to strengthen their defence partnership in talks between their defence ministers, the Indian government said, amid worries in New Delhi that the military offensive in Ukraine was hurting its own military supplies from Moscow.
Rajnath Singh and Sergei Shoigu held talks on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation [SCO] defence ministers' gathering in New Delhi on Friday.
"They acknowledged the unique, long-lasting and time-tested relationship between India and Russia," a government statement said.
They "expressed satisfaction over the continued trust and mutual respect between the two countries, particularly in defence and reiterated their commitment towards strengthening the partnership," it said, without elaborating.
India, the world's largest arms importer, depends on Russia for nearly half its military supplies, and has bought fighter jets, tanks, nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier over the decades.
But the fighting in Ukraine has held up supplies of Russian spares critical for India to maintain its tank and fighter jet fleets and delayed the delivery of Russian air defence systems.
What happens to Russian oil in India?
India has refused to blame Russia for the invasion in Ukraine publicly and has increased its trade with Moscow to a record high, driven largely by the import of Russian oil.
India is the world's third-largest crude consumer after the United States and China, and imports 85 percent of its needs.
Previously its main suppliers were in the Middle East. Now, Russia is number one.
In March, India imported from Russia 1.62 million barrels per day (bpd), 40 percent of its total oil imports, according to the International Energy Agency, up from around 70,000 bpd and just one percent of inflows before the war.
India has been snapping up c from Russia, refining it and selling it, becoming a key supplier to Europe as it reshapes global fuel flows.
India has 23 oil refineries refining 249 million tonnes of oil a year, making it the world's fourth-biggest refiner.
Much of the refined product goes to Indian consumers.
But thanks to a surplus India has emerged as a major supplier of petrol and diesel –— some of it refined from Russian crude — to Europe and elsewhere.
India's petroleum product exports to the European Union rose 20.4 percent year on year between April and January to 11.6 million tonnes, according to local media, adding that Indian refiners were enjoying "robust margins".
Despite sanctions on Moscow, this does not fall foul of European Union rules because the refined products are not deemed to have come from Russia.
Several Western leaders have criticised India's proximity to Russia as they try to isolate Moscow since its offensive in Ukraine on February 24 last year.
New Delhi says it defending its interests in buying Russian oil and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Source: TRT World