The criticism of India by the Western countries over its import of Russian crude oil while exempting themselves from their "own illegitimate sanctions" is a reflection of their unprincipled position and double standards, Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov said on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview to PTI, the envoy said trade between India and Russia has been on a significant upswing and several payment systems are in place including an option even to use currencies of third countries with certain "partners" in Asia and in the Middle East offering viable choices.
Historically, Russia has not been a major source of fossil fuel for India but the imports of discounted Russian crude oil have seen a massive increase in the last few months, notwithstanding the simmering tension between New Delhi and several Western nations over it.
"Those in the West who criticise India not just slyly keep silent about the fact that they themselves actively buy Russian energy resources exempting them from their own illegitimate sanctions, but in doing so explicitly demonstrate their unprincipled position and double standards while claiming otherwise," Alipov said.
His comments came days after the external affairs minister strongly justified India's import of Russian crude oil saying it is his moral duty to ensure best deals for the country.
The ambassador said Europe has "completely lost" its independent voice while "appeasing" the US's ambitions for power, and is now trying to sustain its economic well-being while triggering an escalation of energy prices for the rest of the globe.
"For what reason should India pay for that," Alipov asked.
The ambassador suggested there was no impact of Western sanctions against Moscow on India-Russia trade and said the trade volume in the first six months of this year alone was USD 11.1 billion. It was around USD 13 billion for the entire 2021.
"We have every reason to believe that by the end of this year we will reach a historic record, and that is not only due to large-scale supplies of hydrocarbons which have grown more than 10 times," he said.
Talking about several payment systems for bilateral trade, Alipov said one of them is using the national currencies, adding the volume of trade in national currencies amounted to over 40 per cent in recent years.
"Recently the Reserve Bank of India issued a special circular, which extends the use of Rupee in international trade. It is yet another step to support the option for the trading community to exercise invoicing, paying and settling operations in national currencies," Alipov said.
"Secondly, there is a mechanism of using currencies of third countries with viable options offered by our partners in Asia and in the Middle East. We also see immense potential in the establishment of the BRICS international reserve fund," he said.
Alipov said the Russian companies and banks, which are not sanctioned, can still engage in economic activities using US Dollar and Euro.
"As for the impact of the Western sanctions, obviously their side effects were miscalculated, both politically and economically. The rise of fuel and food prices triggered galloping inflation worldwide, and even developed economies risk falling into recession," he said.
The ambassador said there is an incredible potential opening up in trade in Russia with "huge space" rendered vacant after the "self-inflicted" withdrawal of many Western companies for political reasons.
Alipov said there has been growing interest from both Russia and India to further diversify trade ties taking advantage of "emerging opportunities".
"The overall purpose is to supplement each other's economic strategies as both our countries aim to increase the level of self-reliance and are keen to explore new markets facilitated by sustained mechanisms of financial transactions and logistics," he said.
On India's oil procurement from Russia, Alipov said New Delhi has consistently maintained that its approach is based on its national interests and reflects the needs of the growing Indian economy and the welfare of its people.
"As for the impact of the Western sanctions, obviously their side effects were miscalculated both politically and economically," he said.
Asked about India's position on the Ukraine crisis, he said Russia respects and appreciates New Delhi's consistent position as it is based on solid foundations of international law and a strategic vision of national interests.
He said the best characteristic of Russia's strategic partnership with India is that it is not directed against anyone.
"We also feel there is a deep understanding in the Indian society of the origins of the Ukrainian crisis which began long before February 2022," he said.
India has not yet criticised the Russian attack on Ukraine and has been maintaining that the crisis should be resolved through dialogue.
"Achieving undivided security, equal multipolarity and democratization of global governance are our shared aspirations while attempts to halter these natural tendencies by exercising dictate and unipolarity in the name of shared values is a thing of the past," he said.
On bilateral trade, Alipov said trade in diamond, gold and other metals along with high-tech equipment and chemical products has gone up.
He said India's export of pharmaceuticals, IT and electronic equipment, automobile components and marine products to Russia has also gone up.
"At the same time, we focus on joint projects in metallurgy, refinery, rubber production, nuclear and green energy, civil aviation, shipbuilding, railways and infrastructure development, innovations and startups and ICTs," he said.
On the international approach to resolving the Ukraine crisis, he said, "Unfortunately, the collective global efforts to deal with the situation are also in jeopardy since institutional architecture gets under the stress of politicisation and attempts to isolate Russia."