Union Minister for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Steel Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday said that Saudi Arabia’s advice to India to reduce oil stores to tackle high crude prices was undiplomatic and asserted that New Delhi would source crude oil from any country that offers cheaper and favourable deals.
“That was in a way [an] undiplomatic answer by one of our old friends,” Pradhan said at Times Network’s India Economic Conclave in Delhi. “I politely disagree with that kind of approach. Certainly India has its own strategy, when and how to use our own storage, and we are conscious about our interests.”
As India tackles rising oil prices, Pradhan has repeatedly called on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, to ease supply curbs. On March 4, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman had suggested that India should use its strategic reserves filled with cheaper oil bought in 2020.
India had purchased 16.71 million barrels of crude in April-May 2020 and filled all the three Strategic Petroleum Reserves created at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Mangalore and Padur in Karnataka. The average cost of that crude purchase was $19 per barrel, according to Pradhan’s written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on September 21.
The Indian minister criticised Saudi output cuts aimed at supporting prices, and suggested that India will have to look for energy alternatives to Gulf oil, its main source of crude.
The minister said that India never worked under any kind of pressure and that the Narendra Modi government gave priority to its international interests. On India’s dependence, he emphasised that India was free to buy oil from whoever served the country’s requirement.
“We are an open, free market,” Pradhan said. “Our oil marketing companies and private sector oil majors are free to take oil from any part of the world, whichever country will provide favourable business terms, whether it is America, or Iraq or UAE or Saudi Arabia. India’s common interest is paramount in decision.”
Retail petrol and diesel prices had hit record highs last month. Petrol crossed Rs 100 mark in some places in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.