Govt worried about fuel supplies from volatile Middle East

New Delhi: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the country was concerned by the ongoing turmoil in Middle East and North Africa as it imported two-third of its oil imports from the region.

"If you look at our oil requirement…out of 100 million tonnes imported last year, 67 million tonne or two-thirds came from Middle East alone," he said in the Rajya Sabha while replying to a debate on finance bill.

"If the situation remains unstable there, it is quite natural for anyone to express concern and to hope and to try, if possible, to restore normalcy, peace and stability in the region because our vital interests are linked to that."

He also pointed out that there were six million Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the Middle East.

Mukherjee`s statement comes at a time when the political turmoil in places like Libya and Bahrain has taken global crude prices to over USD 100 dollar per barrel.

Crude prices had touched a 30-months high of USD 120 per barrel last month following unrest in Egypt and Tunisia.

In his reply, the Finance Minister also said that increase in global commodity prices was a reality to be lived with.

"…why did I refer to the crisis in Middle East or japan… Not to find a cover to have some excuse that the prices will go up. It is not that. Today my primary concern is about the availability… it is not an excuse," he said.

Experts are apprehensive about disruption of supplies from Libya, a major oil exporter and OPEC member, on account of fighting between government forces and rebels.

India imports almost two-thirds of it oil requirement and state-run firms have been suffering losses on account of huge subsidy bill.

While the government deregulated the petrol prices last year, diesel continues to be on the regulated list. If the current spurt in oil prices continues, the government may be either forced to pass on the burden to consumers or risk inflating its deficit.

According to experts, the government is expected to take a decision on diesel price deregulation after assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory, scheduled for April-May, are over.