The Russia-Ukraine War: Is Modi Helping Private Companies? 


After watching Narendra Modi for nine years, including over two as head of a national organization, I can say with assurance that every action he takes is to help someone make tremendous profits. These crony capitalists probably serve Modi. The state machinery’s calibration to these recipients’ needs is increasingly critical.

The external affairs minister addressed the Russia-Ukraine war after the parliament’s budget session resumed on March 14, 2022. He noted India’s serious attempts to rescue its citizens, especially medical students. Though he avoided using the term “non-alignment,” he outlined why India will not change its neutrality. He defended India’s abstention from the March 2, 2022 UN General Assembly emergency special session resolution. India remained mute when 141 Western and non-Western nations requested Russia’s immediate disengagement from Ukraine.

India’s move drew worldwide and Western media ire. Parliament supported the government as usual. Even before anyone could identify distant Ukraine on the world map, the ruling party’s mind-influencing brigade began sending WhatsApp and Facebook messages accusing Ukraine of taking a stand against India. Pro-government social media and TV reminded everyone that Russia had stood alongside us for 52 years since the Indo-Soviet treaty of 1971 but avoided mentioning Nehru or Indira Gandhi.

India’s energy in importing Russian oil despite international sanctions was particularly noticeable. In mid-2022, Jaishankar told the West that India accounts for barely 1% of Russian oil exports, citing an obsolete statistic. We imported 30% of Russia’s oil by year’s end.

Private refineries can re-export oil and its products, unlike state-owned refineries. Before the Ukraine crisis, the two private refineries had to buy crude at high international market rates and sell petrol, diesel, and other derivates at lower margins due to competitive prices. Reliance and Nayara could now import cheap Russian oil and generate record profits, but for their duty to supply 10,000 of India’s 65,000 petrol pumps. India’s stance on the Ukraine crisis helped Reliance-Nayara sell petrol, diesel, and other products at huge profits.

Oil-starved Western nations battered by their own sanctions against Russia paid hefty prices. Government cried the sky had fallen when crude prices reached $100 per barrel. It conveniently omitted that the UPA frequently imported crude at above $100 a barrel. In fact, crude oil prices reached $106.94 in May 2014, while Manmohan Singh could still sell petrol at Rs 72 a liter.

When Modi gets oil at $70 a barrel, I don’t understand why gas prices are always over Rs 100 a litre. Indian private refiners bought Russian crude oil at discounted costs since public sector refineries had to buy at contracted rates from the open market. The nation was convinced that we would have sunk if we hadn’t “sided” with Russia. Despite his rudeness, Jaishankar correctly accused the West of importing Russian gas despite sanctions. “We don’t send people to buy Russian oil,” he said, defending India’s right to import.

India purchased 62.5 million barrels of Russian oil during February and June ‘22, mostly for the two private refiners. “India’s private refiners tap cheap Russian crude as state refiners suffer,” Business Today said. Vortexa, an energy cargo tracker, revealed in March 2023 that Indian private refiners imported 45% of inexpensive Russian oil while having 35% of domestic processing capability. Reliance and Nayara “supercharged profits” by re-exporting Russian oil. 

I have been trying to get imports, exports, costs, discounts, profits, and the windfall gain from a stonewalling petroleum ministry through parliament queries and letters for over a year. The finance ministry enforced a “windfall gains tax” on and off due to huge profits, although details are unclear. 

Russia’s goodwill didn’t develop overnight. Russian oil giant Rosneft indirectly owns Gujarat-based Nayara. It paid $13 billion buying the Essar refinery from cash-strapped Ruias in 2017. To maintain options, Reliance has maintained good relations with Russian industries and billionaires. 

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an international think-tank, accused India of whitewashing Russian crude oil to re-export it to the EU and other countries. This appears to be a Rosneft monopoly carrier that has transported over half of the 83 million barrels of Russian crude oil. Only Russian oil imports to India have caused this rapid growth in India-related shipping companies.

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