India’s reliance on Russian weapons comes under strain even as its Russian oil imports surge
- Seeing Russian weaponry fail in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is weighing on their export appeal, but the conflict is driving up interest in Russian oil
- Russia was once India’s top arms supplier and a middling oil provider, but those roles appear to be reversing as the conflict continues
“There have been strong and continuing contacts between our governments at various levels,” Jaishankar said, noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin met this September at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
A Ukrainian defence ministry dossier has revealed that the Russian weapons found on the battlefield have been ineffective and failed to meet modern requirements. Its armoured vehicles and helicopters have wilted before small arms fire, and its missiles miss more than two-thirds of their targets.
Another recent study by the British think tank Royal United Services Institute detected more than 450 foreign-made components in Russian arms recovered in Ukraine. These critical technologies were sourced from US, European and Asian companies before the regime of sanctions took effect. It found that 27 of the recovered weapons systems, such as cruise missiles, relied predominantly on Western components.
The exposure to Russian armaments will complicate India’s defence build-up. According to SIPRI, India has traditionally been among the world’s largest importers of arms, accounting for 11 per cent of global imports from 2017 to 2021.
Meanwhile, India – the world’s third-largest importer and consumer of oil after the US and China – has defended its surging crude imports from Russia.
In light of the Ukraine war, the US and Europe have tapered off their oil imports from Russia. The EU’s share of Russian oil sales shrank from about 50 per cent before the invasion to 35 per cent in October while US imports fell from US$1.7 billion in March to zero in September.
Puri also repeated Jaishankar’s assertion that India is buying only 0.2 per cent rather than 2 per cent of Russian oil. This was an attempt to debunk London-based energy analytics firm Vortexa’s data that with its record October oil exports, Russia had overtaken Opec heavyweights Iraq and Saudi Arabia to become India’s largest supplier of crude oil.
Meanwhile, the EU has pledged to stop buying almost all seaborne Russian crude and refined petroleum products by early next year.
India’s policy of not recognising unilateral sanctions – meaning those not imposed by the United Nations – cannot stand up to the might of the US as US sanctions carry the heft of the US dollar in international finance. A country, corporate or individual entity contravening these sanctions can be blocked off from the US financial system and, by extension, from global markets.
India and other buyers of Russian arms might also be drawn under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This US law provides for economic and financial penalties on any nation transacting on arms with Russia, Iran or North Korea.
Sarosh Bana is executive editor of Business India in Mumbai, regional editor, Indo-Pacific Region, of Germany’s Naval Forces, and India correspondent of Sydney-based cyber security journal, Asia Pacific Security Magazine