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India is devising a payment mechanism for trade with Russia

By Anoop Agrawal


Updated

Image showing a handshake between a Russian flag-suited man and an Indian flag-suited man
Indian lenders and government are attempting to hatch a plan for a rupee-rouble settlement with Russia – Photo - Shutterstock

India is working on a payment-settlement mechanism with Russia that would allow mutually beneficial trade between two countries to flourish and help the European nation to bypass the sanctions the US and other Western countries have imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

A decision on the setup will be announced over the next fortnight for the so-called rupee (INR)–rouble (RUB) trade, according to Dr A Sakthivel, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).

The mechanism would help India as it relies substantially on crude-oil imports, and at the same time would enable Russia to sell its vast oil and gas resources, which has been fraught as a result of the sanctions. Russian President Putin has pledged that Moscow will meet its contractual obligations on energy supplies.

Under the planned arrangements, a few state-owned Indian banks are in discussions with the finance ministry and the central bank over how to execute the payment system.

India’s exports to Russia – led by pharmaceutical products, tea and coffee – totalled $3.3bn in 2021, while its imports (mainly defence goods, mineral resources, fertilisers, metals and precious stones) were $6.9bn. 

The US has traditionally been India’s biggest export market. Government data showed India–US trade was $112.6bn in 2021. India has not called out Russia on the Ukraine invasion and has abstained from all the three recent UN votes condemning the war.

Diamonds in the mix

India’s second-largest rating agency pointed that some companies in the cut and polished diamond (CPD) business are mulling an alternative rupee–rouble payment mechanism to facilitate trade in the near term.

The Indian CPD industry exports are expected to moderate to $22.5bn–$23bn in the year ending March 2023, or a contraction of up to 6% because of supply disruptions. Russia-controlled Alrosa supplies almost 30% of the world‘s rough diamonds and is an important source of rough diamond imports for India.

Rough diamond prices are expected to remain firm in 2022–2023 with no major ramp-up in mining output of rough diamonds expected over the next two years, according to Indian credit-rating agency ICRA Limited.

Sakshi Suneja, assistant vice president and sector head at ICRA, said:“Channel checks suggest that Indian CPD entities are not facing any major logistics hurdles at present and are procuring roughs from Alrosa in euros vis-à-vis US dollars earlier.

EUR/USD

1.09 Price
+0.030% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0087%
Short position overnight fee 0.0005%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.00006

USD/JPY

156.92 Price
-0.410% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee 0.0108%
Short position overnight fee -0.0190%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.010

AUD/USD_zero

0.67 Price
-0.350% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0066%
Short position overnight fee -0.0016%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.00006

AUD/USD

0.67 Price
-0.350% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0066%
Short position overnight fee -0.0016%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.00006

“However, any stringent restrictions on imports would lead to a shortage, leading to an increase in rough prices. Another important thing to watch out for would be resistance from retailers and consumers based in the US and Europe to purchasing polished diamonds of Russian origin.”

Russians using cryptocurrencies to bypass sanctions

European Central Bank (ECB) president Christine Lagarde said Russia is using cryptocurrencies to bypass the sanctions imposed on the country. US President Joe Biden will announce new sanctions on Russian lawmakers on Thursday, the White House has said.

Lagarde pointed out there are indications that some Russians may be using digital assets to circumvent sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine through converting roubles into cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.

India is planning to add to the three million barrels of crude it purchased from Russia earlier this month, with the payment settled in its own currency – a move that has bypassed Western sanctions.

The state-owned Indian Oil Corporation was the main buyer in the company-to-company deal that superseded sanctions, including a US-led oil-import embargo on Russia.

Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economist at State Bank of India, the nation’s largest lender, said: “The hegemony of US dollars appears likely to continue in next few decades, notwithstanding the alternate settlement mechanism being envisaged by select nations desirous of continuing inter-territorial trades of a compulsory nature.

“[These would be] circuiting around the Western sanctions as backdoor talks gather momentum for rupee-rouble or yuan-rouble settlements globally, with some enthusiasts betting for gold settlements too!

“However, this should present the moment of reckoning for the internationalisation of rupee too, underpinning the need to evolve alternate payment and settlement mechanisms.”

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