The government does not expect oil companies to buy only from Russia, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said Wednesday morning amid continuing fierce debate over the decision to purchase cheap fuel from a Russian administration accused of using sale proceeds to fund its invasion of Ukraine.
"We don't ask our companies to buy Russian oil... we ask them to buy what(ever) is the best option they get," the minister told Parliament, adding, "It is a sensible policy... to go where we get the best deal in the interest of the people."
Jaishankar's comments come a day after Ukraine's foreign minister condemned - as 'morally inappropriate' - India's decision to increase Russian oil purchases.
Dmytro Kuleba said it was 'completely wrong' of the Indian government to justify its purchases from Russia 'by arguing Europeans are doing the same'.
On Monday - with German counterpart Annalena Baerbrock at his side - Jaishankar highlighted differences between Europe and India's choices.
The minister said between Feb 24 (start of the war) and Nov 27 the European Union had 'imported more fossil fuels from Russia than the next ten nations combined'. The EU imports $50 billion in gas and 50% more coal, he said.
India is the world's third biggest oil consumer and importer.
'Completely wrong': Ukraine slams India
Ukraine, however, appeared unsatisfied with this explanation.
"...you are buying cheap oil not because of Europeans but because of us, of our suffering, of our tragedy, and because of the war Russia launched," Kuleba said.
India has increased its purchase of oil from Russia following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine - by some estimates quantities purchased have gone up six-fold.
The government has pointed to millions hit hard by the global rise in prices because of the war, and that it has to buy discounted oil to cover their needs.
Jaishankar has also said oil from Middle East - traditionally India's biggest suppliers - had increased their prices because of additional demand from Western countries that are now looking to shun Russian oil and gas imports.
G7 caps Russian oil prices
Last week the G7, the EU and Australia voted to cap purchases of Russian seaborne oil at US$60 per barrel.
EU president Ursula von der Leyen said the move would 'stabilise global energy prices (and) benefit emerging economies around the world'.
The Kremlin has played down the cap's impact and has insisted it will not affect its campaign. Russia president Vladimir Putin's aide told Reuters Moscow will not sell oil subject to a Western price cap even if it has to cut production.