India challenged to ensure economic interests amid Ukraine conflict: Jaishankar
India faces a challenge to ensure that its economic interests are well protected and its consumers are shielded to the extent possible from the enormous jump in the oil prices in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.
Addressing the Indian community here as he began the first leg of his three-nation tour to Latin America, Jaishankar said on Saturday that what the Ukraine crisis has done in terms of impacting India's energy security is something which is of concern.
We have a challenge, which is we have to ensure through diplomacy, through dealings with various governments that our economic interests are well protected and the Indian consumer is shielded to the extent possible from this enormous jump in oil prices, he said, defending India's move to buy discounted Russian oil.
The minister noted that the world is globalised that something happens in one corner of the world and everybody else is impacted by it. There has been a very strong level of commitment to ensure that India's national interests in regard to energy are somehow met, he added.
The US and European nations have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.
India has raised oil imports from Russia after the Ukraine war despite criticism from the west and continues to engage with Moscow for business.
Jaishankar has repeatedly defended India's decision to buy discounted Russian oil amid Moscow's ongoing war with Ukraine, saying many suppliers of India have diverted their supplies to Europe, which is buying less oil from Russia.
Oil prices are "unreasonably high" and so are the gas prices. A lot of traditional suppliers to Asia are diverting to Europe because Europe is buying less oil from Russia, he said last week in Bangkok.
Addressing the Indian diaspora here, Jaishankar called for strengthening India-Brazil bilateral cooperation.
"Our sense of partnership is how we can support each other, so that in our respective rise in the global order we can be of help to each other. That is the mindset through which we are looking at the relationship," he said.
Jaishankar said India-Brazil ties are defined by good sentiment, great goodwill and increasing cooperation.
He said politically the two countries had good ties for a long time and they have now become better.
He said Brazil President Jair Messias Bolsonaro's visit to India in 2020 further strengthened bilateral ties.
For India, Brazil is a key partner, but it is also a country from which there are many learnings for India. There are experiences and best practices in Brazil from which India could benefit," he said.
Emphasising on improving trade ties, he said, India's trade account with Latin America as whole is little below USD 50 million and New Delhi's target is how do we double this and make it USD 100 million trade account.
He said for Brazil itself the immediate target is to reach USD 15 billion level. "But we need to think bigger and this is the message I am carrying during this visit," he said.
"Our trade is going up and it's been a good year. Clearly the more you do the more vistas open up," he said, calling for more investments and increasing the footprint of Indian firms in Brazil.
Jaishankar underlined the need for more collaboration in the energy sector and fossil fuel, especially Ethanol.
"There is a whole Ethanol story. We are the third largest Ethanol producer. There is a natural synergy with Brazil in making Ethanol much more global, if number two and three producers join hands and propagate its virtue to make it a much more universal commodity."
On cooperation in the defence sector, he said the two countries' dealings in the field have gone up and have started some joint ventures.
He also called for more collaboration in space technology, animal husbandry and traditional medicines.
"The WHO has just announced its first global traditional medicine centre in Jamnagar in Gujarat. We see ourself becoming a global hub for traditional medicine and Brazil is a natural partner for it," he said
He also thanked the Indian community for serving as an effective bridge between Brazil and India.