Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

India forex reserves 2024: Exploring current status and historical trends

Explore the stability and growth of Indian forex reserves in our detailed analysis. Learn about India's financial strength and prospects

Published: May 20, 2024 09:30:53 AM IST
Updated: May 20, 2024 05:06:05 AM IST

India's foreign exchange reserves refer to assets held by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in foreign currencies. These reserves act as a cushion and provide liquidity, ensuring our country can meet its external obligations. The importance of Indian forex reserves cannot be overstated, as they play a vital role in maintaining the stability of the nation’s currency and economy. Wondering how it works? This article should help.

The Indian forex reserves have seen significant fluctuations, reflecting the country's economic dynamics and global financial conditions.

India’s foreign exchange reserves are a topic of interest for economists and policymakers alike. With fluctuations and trends reflecting the nation's economic landscape, understanding the forex reserves of India is essential.

Current Status of the Indian Forex Reserves

As of May 3, 2024, India's forex reserves stood at $6,41,590 million, according to the Reserve Bank of India.

The Indian forex reserves consist of foreign currency assets, gold, special drawing rights, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reserve position. As per the latest data from the RBI, here are the exact amount of Indian forex reserves held by different components:

Component Amount (in million USD)
Total Reserves 6,41,590
Foreign Currency Assets 5,64,161
Gold Reserves 54,880
Special Drawing Rights (SDR) 18,051
Reserve Position in IMF 4,499

Indian Forex Reserves: Historical Data

Over the years, India's forex reserves have been driven by various factors, including a surge in foreign direct investments, growth in IT and service exports, and prudent economic policies. The Indian government and Reserve Bank of India utilise reserves to manage exchange rates and monetary policies effectively.

According to the RBI, the Indian forex reserves in the past five years amounted to these numbers:

Year Forex Reserves (in million USD)
May 3, 2024 6,41,590
January 26, 2024 6,16,733
December 31, 2023 6,204,41
September 29, 2023 5,869,08
December 23, 2022 5,62,808
December 31, 2021 6,35,080
December 25, 2020 5,81,131
December 20, 2019 4,54,948

Components of Forex Reserves

The components of Indian forex reserves are vital to the nation's financial stability and economic growth. These components are carefully managed to ensure a balanced portfolio responding to various economic scenarios. The main elements of forex reserves in India include foreign currencies, gold reserves, special drawing rights, and the reserve portion in IMF.

Also Read: The top 10 largest economies in the world in 2024

Foreign Currencies

The foreign currencies reserve is the most significant component of the Indian forex reserves. It includes major currencies like the US Dollar, the Euro, and the British Pound. Holding these currencies provides liquidity and enables the country to pay for international trade transactions.

  • Purpose: Facilitate international trade, provide liquidity
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Enhances stability and confidence
Foreign currencies play a crucial role in maintaining the value of the local currency and ensuring that the country can meet its foreign obligations.


Gold reserves are another essential component of Indian forex reserves. Gold is a hedge against inflation and provides a safety net during economic uncertainties.

  • Purpose: Hedge against inflation and safety during economic downturns
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Adds value and security
Including gold in the reserves adds an extra layer of protection and value, reflecting the traditional importance of gold in the Indian economy.

Special Drawing Rights

Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) are international reserve assets the IMF has created. They supplement the foreign exchange reserves of the member countries.

  • Purpose: Supplement foreign exchange reserves
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Enhances international liquidity
SDRs provide additional liquidity and are part of the global effort to stabilise the international monetary system.

Reserve Portion in IMF

The reserve portion in the IMF represents India's quota in the International Monetary Fund. It reflects India's position and voting power within this global financial institution.

  • Purpose: Reflects India's position in the IMF
  • Impact on Indian Forex Reserves: Strengthens international standing

Why India Accumulates, Increases, or Decreases Forex Reserves

The accumulation, increase, or decrease in India's forex reserves is not a random occurrence but a strategic decision made by the country's central bank and government. Let's delve into the key factors that influence these decisions.

Economic Factors

These economic factors play a vital role in managing Indian forex reserves.

  1. Growth and Stability: A growing economy may increase Indian forex reserves as foreign investors invest in the country. Conversely, economic instability may lead to a decrease as investors pull out.
  2. Trade Balance: A positive trade balance (exports greater than imports) can lead to an accumulation of forex reserves. A negative trade balance may require using funds to pay for imports.
  3. Inflation Control: The central bank may buy or sell foreign currency to control inflation, impacting the level of reserves.

Political Factors

Political factors also have a significant impact on the forex reserves of India.

  1. Government Policies: Policies related to foreign trade, investment, and fiscal management can either attract or deter foreign capital, affecting reserves.
  2. Political Stability: A stable political environment attracts foreign investment, leading to an increase in reserves. Political uncertainty can have the opposite effect.
  3. International Relations: Diplomatic relations with trading partners and international organisations can influence the flow of foreign capital.

Global Factors

Global factors are external elements that can influence Indian forex reserves.

  1. Global Economic Conditions: The state of the world economy affects foreign investment, trade, and, consequently, forex reserves.
  2. Exchange Rate Fluctuations: Changes in currency exchange rates can lead to gains or losses in the forex reserves of India.
  3. International Crises: Financial crises, pandemics, or geopolitical tensions can lead to sudden reserve changes.

Impact of Indian Forex Reserves on the Economy

The forex reserves of India have a significant impact on the Indian economy. After all, they act as a cushion against economic shocks and allow the government to manage exchange rates. Following sections detail both the positive and negative impacts of these reserves.

Positive Impacts

  1. Stabilisation of Currency: The Indian forex reserves help stabilise the native currency by allowing the government to intervene in the foreign exchange market.
  2. Enhanced Creditworthiness: Having substantial reserves improves India's credit rating, attracting foreign investments.

Negative Impacts

  1. Opportunity Cost: Holding large reserves means funds are not invested elsewhere, leading to potential opportunity costs.
  2. Inflationary Pressures: Excessive resources can lead to inflationary pressures within the economy.

Key Stats Relevant to Indian Forex Reserves

  1. In 1960, the Indian forex reserves had covered just 8.6 weeks' worth of imports.
  2. In 1980, India's forex reserves went over $7 billion, more than double that of China's (about $2.55 billion at that time).
  3. In 1991, the reserves stood at $5.8 billion.
  4. By March 1997, India held $29.3 billion in reserves.
  5. India's forex reserves reached the $100 billion mark for the first time in 2004.
  6. In FY 2009, India had to sell dollars worth about $35 billion in the spot markets after a 22 percent depreciation in the rupee against the dollar.
  7. In the same year, India also bought 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund, amounting to about $6.7 billion.
  8. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, June saw India's forex reserves crossing the $500 billion mark for the first time.
  9. One year later, Indian forex reserves exceeded the $600 billion mark for the first time.
  10. The all-time high of Indian forex reserves was recorded on September 8, 2021, at $642.453 billion.
  11. In March 2024, India's foreign exchange reserves reached the highest record for a fourth consecutive week at $642.49 billion.  
  12. India is one of the largest holders of gold in the world, and a significant portion of its Forex Reserves are in gold. In fact 2009, India bought a whopping 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund.