Will Israel-Palestine conflict affect India's economy?

India's economy has been a recent success story, but the growing conflict in the West Asia has raised geopolitical concerns about stable prices and oil supply

Analysts say India's economic health is closely tied to oil prices (Photo: Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Analysts say India's economic health is closely tied to oil prices (Photo: Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict is causing concern in India over the conflict's potential impact on oil prices.

India is the world's third-largest oil-consumer and importer, and although India has been increasing its oil supply from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, a major slice of Indian imports still comes from the West Asia.

Between April and September 2023, 44% of Indian oil imports were from the West Asia, according to industry figures shared by Reuters news agency.

In October, the World Bank's latest India Development Update (IDU) said it forecast India's growth rate in fiscal year 2023-24 to come in at a strong 6.3%, which was down from the previous 7.2% amid "intensifying global headwinds."

Commodity prices seem stable, so far

Experts in India are concerned that the ongoing conflict could bring fresh global gusts for the Indian economy, with elevated oil prices bringing up import costs and increasing prices for commodities and foodstuffs.

Although a recent World Bank report on commodity prices found that the wider economic impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict would be "limited if the conflict doesn't widen," the outlook for commodity prices "would darken quickly if the conflict were to escalate."

"Overall oil prices have risen about 6% since the start of the conflict," it said.

Last month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) also cautioned that markets "remain on tenterhooks as the crisis unfolds."

"The Middle East conflict is fraught with uncertainty, and events are fast developing. Against a backdrop of tightly balanced oil markets anticipated by the IEA for some time, the international community will remain laser-focused on risks to the region's oil flows," the report said.

The World Bank report added that, in the case of the West Asia conflict escalating, policymakers in developing countries would then need to "take steps to manage a potential increase in headline inflation," which includes measures to ensure food security.

The report also pointed out that "given the risk of greater food insecurity, governments should avoid trade restrictions such as export bans on food and fertilizers as such measures often intensify price volatility and heighten food insecurity."

India's risk of oil-price-driven inflation

For the upcoming financial year (2024), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country's central bank, has pegged crude prices at $85 (€79) a barrel, and an exchange rate of 82.5 rupees against the US dollar.

"A 10 % jump in oil prices can make inflation soar by about 30 basis points and impact growth by about 15 basis points," the RBI estimates.

Economist Arun Kumar told DW that Indian oil supply could be in jeopardy if the Israel-Hamas conflict spreads.

"Tensions will aggravate globally and there will be more supply bottlenecks and not just regarding crude," he said.

"If this happens, the Indian economy will also be adversely impacted. Exports can decline further while prices could rise and the Indian Rupee could weaken with the worsening of the balance of payment situation and decline in foreign exchange reserves," said Kumar.

Although India's core inflation has remained under control at 4.6 % in September, volatile oil prices have the potential to affect inflation and growth estimates.

Lekha Chakraborty, professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, said that highest oil prices would exacerbate inflation and affect India's current account deficit (CAD), in which the value of imported goods and services exceeds the value of exports.

For now, state-run oil marketing companies are expected to absorb the higher costs, even as they face notional losses in selling fuel.

India is also looking to source more oil from countries like Guyana, Canada, Gabon, Brazil, and Colombia.

It has also heavily increased oil purchases from sanction-hampered Russia.

In October, Russian crude accounted for nearly 35% of India's oil imports, followed by Iraq at 21% and Saudi Arabia at 18%.

"The longer-term implications remain to be seen, of course. Any potential disruptions or fluctuations in supply will obviously impact the energy sector in India. But the larger risk factor might be political risk, and the government will need to strike a delicate balance," Sanjay Jain, senior fellow in economics at the University of Oxford, told DW.

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Published: 07 Nov 2023, 11:12 AM