External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that India is concerned about the availability and rise in prices of crude oil due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“The price of oil is breaking our back,” Jaishankar said after a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington. “This is our big concern.”

European countries and the United States have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. This has impacted the prices and availability of crude oil in the global market as Russia is one of the world’s top three crude oil producers.

A further spike is expected after the group of G7 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – along with the European Union, agreed to a price cap to curb Russia’s revenues from oil export on September 2.

The United States has asked India to join the coalition to cap the prices of Russian oil, according to PTI. However, New Delhi has said it would “carefully examine” the proposal before taking any decision.

On Tuesday, Jaishankar said there is a very deep concern among developing countries about how their energy needs are addressed.

“Countries in the Global South have found it difficult to compete for limited energy, not just in terms of pricing, escalating pricing, but often in terms of availability,” he said. “Countries have had tenders for which they don’t even get a reply from suppliers.”

India has increased its oil imports from Moscow significantly since prices of Russian crude oil tumbled to their lowest in March amid the Ukraine war and the sanctions imposed on Russia by western countries.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that India’s crude oil imports from Russia have increased to 12%-13% of all its fuel shipments from about 2% in February.

Visa challenges

Meanwhile, Jaishankar on Tuesday said that he has raised the issue of visa delays with the United States.

“There have been challenges of late,” Jaishankar said. “I have flagged it to [US] Secretary Blinken and his team and have every confidence that they will look at some of these problems seriously and positively.”

Last month, several media reports highlighted that the processing time of visa applications to the United States has increased significantly. The average waiting time for a visitor visa was over 500 days, according to the reports.

On Tuesday, Blinken said that the delay was due to the coronavirus pandemic and that the United States now has a plan to address the backlog.

“Our ability to issue visas dropped dramatically during Covid,” he said. “We are now building back very determinedly from that, surging resources. I think you will see that play out in the coming months.”