NEW DELHI — One after another, pleas poured into India. Buying Russian oil, President Biden told the Indian Prime Minister, is not in your country’s interest. Undermining sanctions, a US official sharply warned, could have “consequences.” A tougher crackdown on Russia, argued a parade of US and European envoys, is a global necessity.

But for India, the decision to strictly adhere to its neutrality in Russia’s war in Ukraine is no longer just about keeping its options open in a world of multiple centers of power. It has become a lucrative case of economic expediency: Russian oil is just too good a deal to pass up.

India’s purchases of Russian crude oil have soared since the start of the conflict, from nothing in December and January to about 300,000 barrels a day in March and 700,000 a day in April. Crude oil now accounts for nearly 17 percent of India’s imports, down from less than 1 percent before the invasion. Last year, India imported an average of about 33,000 barrels per day from Russia.

With Russian oil banned in the United States and Europe now proposing its own embargo, India can buy the crude at significant discounts, powering its energy-thirsty economy at a lower cost. Indian refineries can also use the crude oil to make products such as diesel and jet fuel and sell them abroad at better-than-usual margins.

As India uses the war to boost economic recovery after the pandemic, trade between the country and Russia is likely to increase as the conflict continues, analysts say. That would further complicate US and European efforts to stifle Russia’s economic lifeline and strain US-India relations as the two nations try to work together to counter China.

“If oil is available and at a discount, why not buy it? I need it for my people,” Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s finance minister, said last month.

The realignment of Russia’s oil exports became apparent days after President Vladimir V. Putin launched his attack on Ukraine in late February, when tanker traffic that used to go from Russia’s Black Sea terminals to Northern Europe turned instead to India. bow.

That traffic could become even busier after the European Union announced on Wednesday it hoped to phase out a ban on Russian oil in the coming months, a move that came days after Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, raising the risk of an energy war got bigger .

The Indian tankers will head to Jamnagar, in the western state of Gujarat, where Reliance Industries has the world’s largest refinery complex, and to Vadinar, also in Gujarat, the site of a refinery owned by Nayara Energy, an Indian subsidiary of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned company.

“The demand for Northwestern Europe was wiped out,” said Viktor Katona, an analyst at Kpler, a company that tracks energy transportation. “That was essentially taken over by India.”

While Europe may refrain from buying crude oil from Russia, it is eager to buy the same oil after it’s been refined in India – one of the conundrums in cutting Moscow’s energy revenues. India’s exports of diesel and other refined products to Europe, where they are scarce, reached a new record 219,000 barrels per day in March, before falling back in April as demand in India increased.

At the same time, Indian state oil companies are buying millions of barrels of Russian crude for the domestic market, which may have helped Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government avoid a surge in fuel prices after the freeze was lifted in March.

So far, the United States has chosen not to impose tougher sanctions that could force countries like India to stop buying Russian crude. That caution may reflect concerns in the Biden administration that such a move could further raise pump prices for Americans.

“The White House appears reluctant to take action to close the Indian shelter for homeless Russian barrels,” Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, said in a note to clients.

It’s not hard to see why Russian oil is attractive to buyers in India and elsewhere, despite the risks of taunts over Ukraine. They can get significant discounts of $30 a barrel or more, a very good deal when Brent oil, the international benchmark, sells for around $105 a barrel.

With European countries still buying oil from Moscow, top Indian officials have said it is hypocritical of them to ask India to limit its trade with Russia. And they have argued that India, a developing country, does not have the luxury of doing away with discounted energy.

India’s trade relations with Russia date back to the South Asian country’s early days as an independent nation, when it had no credit history and an established currency. Russia was one of the few merchants willing to buy goods from India and accept Indian rupees as payment. When India took a non-aligned position during the Cold War, bilateral trade continued, allowing India to build its defense arsenal largely with Russian weapons.

Russia has also provided political support to India at the United Nations. Moscow remained a firm ally as Washington repeatedly outraged New Delhi, including by providing aid to Pakistan, India’s enemy, and imposing sanctions on India for developing nuclear weapons. India has returned the favor by abstaining from UN resolutions condemning the Russian invasion.

Washington is now posing as an alternative defense partner for India, making it unlikely that sanctions will be imposed for more Indian trade with Russia. The Indian government believes it will maintain good relations with the United States because of its role as a potentially critical brake on Chinese expansionism.

“It’s just a game of chicken right now,” said Samir N. Kapadia, chief trade officer at Vogel Group, a Washington-based consulting firm.

“The problem is that India is not only benefiting from the discounted goods, but is now also finding a growing export market of food and medicines to Russia. I don’t see that relationship changing,” he said.

With Europe taking steps to ban Russian crude and fuel, prices are likely to rise and India could benefit even more from refining Russian oil and selling the fuels to Europe.

India itself is also very hungry for oil. It is the third largest oil importer and consumer, transporting more than 80 percent of its crude oil needs, mainly from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq. If producers in the Persian Gulf find themselves losing market share from India to Russia, it could lead to tensions in OPEC Plus, the oil organization chaired by Riyadh and Moscow.

While Reliance and Nayara, the major Indian refineries, exported while the Indian government picked fuel prices from November through March, Indian state oil companies filled the domestic gap by also importing millions of barrels of Russian crude oil.

But India’s absorption of Russian energy products doesn’t stop there. Russian coal imports have also skyrocketed, reaching a peak in more than two years in March, according to Kpler data.

With economic growth in India expected to recover to nearly 8 percent this year after the pandemic slump, India is in the energy market wherever it can get it. One answer is a new free trade agreement with Australia, a major coal producer. Another, India hopes, is its talks with Russia to buy even more coal.

Emily Schmall reported from New Delhi, and Stanley Reed from London.

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