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India’s Gold Reserves Homecoming – Foreign Reserves Hit 6 Year Low

In a strategic move prompted by global geopolitical tensions, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has initiated the repatriation of its gold reserves, reducing holdings in foreign vaults to a six-year low by March 2024

This decision marks a significant shift in India’s policy towards safeguarding its precious metal reserves.

As estimated by the World Gold Council, here are the current rankings of gold reserves by country in Q1, 2024. (Source: Forbes India)

Rank & CountryGold Reserve (in tonnes)Gold Reserve (in $ millions) & Holdings in %
#1 United States of America8,133.46579,050.15 (71.33%)
#2 Germany3,352.65238,662.64 (70.56%)
#3 Italy2,451.84174,555.00 (67.55%)
#4 France2,436.88173,492.11 (68.61%)
#5 Russian Federation2,332.74166,076.25 (28.14%)
#6 China2,262.45161,071.82 (4.64%)
#7 Switzerland1,040.0069,495.46 (8.04%)
#8 Japan845.9760,227.84 (4.67%)
#9 India822.0958,527.34 (8.98%)
#10 Netherlands612.4543,602.77 (60.47%)
#11 Turkey570.3040,601.81 (100.00%)
#12 Taiwan (POC)423.6328,224.67 (4.71%)
#13 Portugal382.6327,240.93 73.27%)
#14 Poland359.8925,621.75(12.65%
#15 Uzbekistan357.6925,465.03 (74.28%)
#16 Saudi Arabia323.0721,588.22 (4.71)
#17 Kazakhstan310.6222,114.18 (58.36%)
#18 United Kingdom310.2922,090.45 (12.57%)
#19 Lebanon286.8317,249.75 (54.45%)
#20 Spain281.5820,046.51 (19.28%)

 

2. Triggered by Global Events

The RBI commenced the process of transferring gold reserves from the UK to Indian vaults in March 2022, coinciding with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The move underscores India’s proactive stance in mitigating risks associated with international assets amidst heightened geopolitical uncertainties.

3. Historic Repatriation Efforts

May 2023 witnessed one of India’s largest movements of gold since 1991, when a portion of reserves was pledged to manage a foreign exchange crisis. Over 100 tonnes of gold were transferred, showcasing the scale and strategic importance of the repatriation initiative.

4. RBI Governor’s Clarification

Addressing concerns, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das emphasized that the repatriation was driven by sufficient domestic storage capacity and operational considerations, downplaying speculations about broader implications. The move reflects prudence in managing India’s substantial gold holdings.

5. Historical Context: UK Storage Legacy

During the 1990-91 foreign exchange crisis, India had collateralized part of its gold reserves with the Bank of England for financial stability. Although the loan was repaid by November 1991, India opted to retain its gold in UK vaults for logistical convenience.

6. Current Storage Locations

India’s gold reserves are primarily housed in the Bank of England, renowned for its stringent security measures. Additional reserves are maintained at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Switzerland and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, facilitating international trade and financial transactions.

7. Strategic Risks and Considerations

While storing gold overseas offers liquidity benefits and opportunities for financial engagements, recent geopolitical events have highlighted associated risks. The freezing of Russian assets post-Russia-Ukraine conflict and concerns over the UK economy have underscored the vulnerabilities of maintaining significant gold holdings abroad.

8. Economic and Security Implications

Repatriating gold aligns with India’s strategic goals to enhance economic resilience and safeguard national assets against global uncertainties. The move reflects a proactive approach to ensure the security and accessibility of vital reserves in times of geopolitical instability.

9. India’s Current Gold Reserve

As of March 2024, India’s total gold holdings amounted to 822.1 tonnes, with efforts underway to consolidate a larger portion within domestic vaults. This shift aims to optimize logistical control and minimize risks associated with international storage.

10. Where Does RBI Hold Its Gold?

India’s gold reserves are primarily stored in secure locations abroad, including:

  • Bank of England: Known for its robust security protocols, it holds a significant portion of India’s gold reserves.
  • Bank for International Settlements (BIS): Located in Basel, Switzerland, it serves as another crucial storage site for diversification and security.
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Maintains a strategic reserve to support international financial transactions and trade engagements.

Conclusion:

India’s decision to repatriate gold reserves amid global uncertainties reflects a prudent approach to asset management and risk mitigation. As geopolitical tensions continue to shape international relations, the RBI’s strategic realignment underscores the importance of safeguarding national wealth and ensuring economic resilience in an interconnected world.

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