By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is in talks with Russia over a deal to buy oil at discounted rates, the chairman of India's state-run Hindustan Petroleum Corp. said on Thursday, at a time when much of the West is shunning Russian crude over the conflict in Ukraine.
India, the world's third biggest oil importer and consumer, is struggling like much of the rest of the world with inflation at multi-year highs, and is keen to cut its import bill and protect consumers from soaring fuel prices.
The country has already bought more than twice as much crude from Russia since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 as it did in the whole of 2021, according to Reuters calculations, with sources saying Indian buyers were getting discounted prices.
But the comments from HPCL Chairman Pushp Kumar Joshi signal New Delhi is directly involved, at a time when many Western countries have hit Russia with unprecedented sanctions in an attempt limit its funds for waging war.
While New Delhi has called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, it has not explicitly condemned Moscow's actions.
"There are discussions (happening) on a G to G (government to government) level. We are open to any kind of opportunity and if something is done on G to G level we would obviously be a part of that," Joshi said at HPCL's quarterly earnings news conference.
Group of Seven (G7) nations have said they are committed to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil to isolate Moscow for its war against Ukraine.
Joshi declined to comment on the quantity and discounts under negotiation, citing "commercial interest of both the parties".
"Any opportunity coming in future of utilising Russian crude, definitely we will be utilising that depending on technical and economical requirement. It should make sense (in terms of) freight, insurance, (and) various factors," he said.
Indian refiners are negotiating a six-month oil deal with Russia to import millions of barrels per month, sources told Reuters last month.
In April, Russia emerged for the first time as the fourth largest oil supplier to India, accounting for about 6% of its purchases.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Mark Potter)