New Delhi: Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri called up his counterpart in UAE, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, on Wednesday to convey a need to bring "calm, predictability and realism" in the crude oil market. The courtesy call assumes significance as it comes in the backdrop of petrol and diesel prices touching record highs in India, an issue for which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has received severe flak from the Opposition. While petrol prices have crossed the Rs 100-mark in several states across the country, diesel is being sold at Rs 100 a litre in Rajasthan and Odisha.
"Had a warm courtesy call with HE Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and MD & Group CEO of @AdnocGroup. Discussed ways and means to invigorate the vibrant bilateral strategic energy partnership between India and UAE," said the Petroleum Minister in a tweet on Wednesday. He added, "Conveyed my desire to work closely with UAE and other friendly countries to bring a sense of calm, predictability and realism among other suppliers in the energy market to make it more affordable for consumers."
India, which imports around 85 percent of its crude oil requirement, has time and again urged the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to ease supply curbs to allow crude oil prices to cool off. The rebound in global crude oil prices after the historical lows recorded in May 2020 has pushed fuel prices in India to a record high.
At an OPEC meeting earlier this month, UAE had a falling out with the cartel over production quotas. Resultantly, OPEC, Russia and other allies failed to reach an agreement on output quotas for August and beyond. The cartel was expected to raise the production by 500,000 to 700,000 barrels per day, however, an agreement could not be reached as the UAE differed on the baseline for the output increase.
Puri's elevation as the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas is significant because it comes in the backdrop of an escalation in tension between India and OPEC over the past few months on the issue of supply curbs. In March, Puri's predecessor, Dharmendra Pradhan's requests to OPEC to ease supply curbs were snubbed by the oil-producing nations' cartel. The Saudi Arabia minister had responded to Pradhan's requests for a reasonable price by saying that India should tap into its strategic reserves where it stored cheap crude oil bought in 2020 during the market crash. The response was termed by Pradhan as an "undiplomatic response from a friendly nation."
Puri is a former diplomat who has served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations (UN) from 2009 to 2013. He has also been stationed at important diplomatic posts in Brazil, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom (UK). Since the issues between India and OPEC will have to be resolved through diplomacy, a former diplomat's presence at the helm of affairs in the ministry will come in handy.
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