New Delhi: Venezuelan ambassador to India, Augusto Montiel, said on Tuesday that India’s statement in lieu of Venezuela’s latest presidential crisis – which erupted last month – demonstrated New Delhi’s backing of the government of Nicolas Maduro, adding that his country was securing India’s energy security “even in these hard times.”
On January 23, Juan Guaido, president of the national assembly swore himself in as the president. On the same day, the United States, Canada and Latin American countries recognised Guaido as the president of Venezuela, instead of Maduro. Two weeks later, 11 European nations also joined the US in recognising Guaido after an ultimatum to declare fresh elections lapsed.
On the other side, Russia and China solidly backed Maduro, raising fears of a geo-political showdown.
India had not joined the chorus of voices in the west calling for recognising Guaido. At the same time, however, New Delhi had not referred to the government of Venezuela, but mentioned that “people” in the Latin American country should find a political solution through dialogue.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on January 25, 2019:
“We are of the view that it is for the people of Venezuela to find political solutions to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and discussion without resorting to violence. We believe democracy, peace and security in Venezuela are of paramount importance for the progress and prosperity of the people of Venezuela. India and Venezuela enjoy close and cordial relations”
Two weeks later, Monteil claimed the Indian statement was in favour of Caracas. “The Government of India does not support anybody else but the government of Venezuela,” said Montiel at a press conference answering a question on Venezuela’s response to the Indian statement.
He noted that India had said the “people of Venezuela” will decide the fate of the country. “This means that the government of India is clearly stating that it will not accept intervention in internal affairs,” asserted the envoy
Sitting before a Venezuelan flag pinned to the wall, Monteil said that the statement was a “guarantee that India will continue to have independence” in foreign policy matters.
India is Venezuela’s third largest buyer of crude oil after the US and China. Venezuela is the fourth-largest oil supplier for the Indian market, after Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
With thee US now out of bounds, India and China are the biggest markets for Venezuelan crude, even though oil production has gone down substantially. Several big Indian refineries are specifically adapted to process Venezuela’s heavy crude. According to Bloomberg, Indian private refiners could benefit from the diversion of Venezuelan crude towards the subcontinent.
Monteil said that Venezuela was currently supplying 400,000 barrels of oil per day to India.
“India’s energy security is being guaranteed by Venezuela even in these hard times,” he added.
This supply is, however, a dip from the 500,000 barrels per day of crude being supplied during the pre-sanction years, admitted Monteil. “This was due to the US’s blockade, where it did not allow us to use the international system to conduct transactions in dollars and euros”.
India and Venezuela had set up a rupee payment mechanism, which allows for crude funds to be “invested in Indian services and resources.”
Monteil reminded that Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had stated in May 2018 that India will not implement US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
The senior diplomat claimed the US and other western countries had been working to bring about regime change in Venezuela to get their hands on Latin American countries’ oil and gold reserves. He repeatedly described Juan Guaido as the “puppet from Washington.”
“They are after oil… the largest reserve of oil in the world which is under Venezuelan territory,” said Monteil.
He then played a video at the press conference of US President Donald Trump claiming the US should have got 50% of Iraqi oil reserves. “There is nothing more to say after that,” exclaimed the Venezuelan envoy.
On February 7, Uruguay and Mexico will be co-hosting an international conference on the Venezuelan crisis in Montevedio. “We are hoping that this will bring some balance,” he said.