India's international reserves: How large and how diversified?

Ramkishen S. Rajan, Sasidaran Gopalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Asymmetric foreign exchange intervention by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has resulted in a sustained accretion of India's foreign exchange reserves. The reserve buildup in India has certainly been impressive, rising from around US5-6 million in 1991, to nearly US300 billion in mid 2008. In addition to addressing the issues of reserve adequacy, this paper examines the forms the reserves have taken (asset and currency composition), and the extent to which India's reserve holdings are diversified. The issue of reserve adequacy was made apparent during the 1990s and early 2000 when rapid reserve depletion became a defining and determining feature of the series of currency crises that hit emerging economies. In order to assess the adequacy of India's stock of international reserves, the paper considers a few standard measures used in literature and finds that India's reserve stock is more than adequate, placing them in a much better position than many other emerging economies. The paper goes on to examine the asset and currency composition of such reserves. More than 50 percent of India's reserve holdings have been in the form of foreign currencies and deposits as cash, followed by investments in foreign securities and gold deposits, in that order, reflecting a high degree of risk aversion by the RBI in the management of the reserves. While data on asset composition are available, the currency composition of reserves is a well-guarded secret. Hence the paper undertakes some simulation exercises to arrive at some reasonable guesstimates of such a composition. The paper also makes use of the Treasury International Capital Reporting System (TIC) data to track India's investments in the U.S. securities, thereby assessing the weight of U.S. dollar assets in India's reserve holdings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalGlobal Economy Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 6 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • India
  • international reserves
  • reserve adequacy
  • reserve currency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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