De-Dollarization: Unveiling India’s Growing Influence in Global Trade

Sundaram Balasubramanian

Introduction

De-dollarization, a term relatively unfamiliar until the early 21st century, refers to the gradual move away from the US dollar as the global reserve currency. The term encapsulates the efforts of several nations aiming to reduce their dependency on the dollar for international trade and financial transactions. Simultaneously, it involves a shift towards other currencies or the creation of new payment mechanisms independent of the dollar. The journey of de-dollarization offers a variety of implications for different nations, with India’s role in the global currency trade taking a unique stance.

The US dollar’s status as the world’s primary reserve currency can be traced back to the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944, which established a fixed exchange rate regime with the dollar pegged to gold. However, this system collapsed in the early 1970s, leading to the adoption of a floating exchange rate system and the dollar’s continued dominance as the international currency of choice. Over the years, the dollar’s pivotal role in global trade and finance has provided the United States with unparalleled economic and geopolitical advantages.

In recent times, however, global economic dynamics have been shifting. Economic powerhouses like China and India, along with other emerging economies, have been gradually challenging the established order. These countries have sought to diversify their reserves, protect themselves from external shocks, and reduce their exposure to the potential vulnerabilities associated with the dollar-centric financial system. For India, the pursuit of de-dollarization is not merely an economic objective but also a strategic one.

As the world’s second-most populous country and a growing economic powerhouse, India seeks to assert its presence on the global stage. By embracing de-dollarization, India aims to bolster its economic sovereignty, reduce its vulnerability to external market fluctuations, and foster more balanced and equitable economic relations with other nations. Moreover, India’s vast consumer base and burgeoning middle class provide a significant impetus for the country to increase its trade volumes and diversify its trading partners. De-dollarization allows India to conduct international trade in its local currency, the Indian Rupee, thereby mitigating the risks associated with exchange rate fluctuations and enhancing its ability to negotiate favourable trade deals.

As a member of the BRICS group of nations, which collectively represents about 42% of the world’s population and a significant portion of global GDP, India has been actively engaging in efforts to challenge traditional financial architecture. The BRICS bloc has established institutions like the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) to provide financial support for member countries and foster cooperation outside the Western-dominated financial system.

In this evolving global economic landscape, India’s role in de-dollarization is more than just an economic endeavour; it is a demonstration of the nation’s ambition to shape its destiny and contribute to a more inclusive and multipolar world order. As India forges ahead on this path, it must navigate the challenges that come with reducing dollar dependency while capitalizing on the opportunities to strengthen its position as a key player in the global currency trade.

In the subsequent sections of this article, we will explore the impact of de-dollarization on India’s economic and geopolitical landscape, evaluate the opportunities and challenges it presents, and assess the implications for the nation’s future role in the world economy. Through a comprehensive analysis of India’s de-dollarization journey, we aim to understand the significance of this transformative process and its potential ramifications for the global financial system.

India’s Role

India, the world’s fifth-largest economy, is a key player in the process of de-dollarization. While the US dollar remains dominant, the use of other currencies like the Euro, the Japanese Yen, and the Chinese Renminbi has been on the rise, along with the Indian Rupee. De-dollarization has brought about an increase in trade denominated in local currencies, including the Indian Rupee. This development has given India more leeway in setting monetary policy and protecting its economy from external shocks. For instance, trading in local currencies reduces the risk of currency exchange rate fluctuations, safeguarding Indian exporters and importers from such risks.

Additionally, as a critical player in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) nations, India’s role in de-dollarization has also increased through the formation of multilateral institutions like the New Development Bank (NDB), which seeks to challenge the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. India’s active participation in the process of de-dollarization has yielded significant economic and geopolitical impacts, shaping its role in the global currency trade.

One of the primary benefits of de-dollarization for India is enhanced economic stability and reduced exposure to external shocks. By promoting trade in local currencies, India has reduced its reliance on the US dollar, which historically has been prone to volatility. This shift in trade dynamics has provided greater stability to Indian exporters and importers, shielding them from abrupt currency fluctuations that can negatively impact business operations and profits. Moreover, reduced exposure to dollar fluctuations has allowed India to have more autonomy in setting its monetary policy, contributing to better control over inflation and overall economic stability.

Additionally, de-dollarization has enabled India to strengthen its economic ties with countries facing US sanctions. For instance, during periods of strained relations between the US and Russia, India’s willingness to conduct trade with Russia in Rubles further solidified their economic partnership. Such actions not only showcase India’s stance on promoting multilateralism but also demonstrate its willingness to resist undue external pressure in economic matters. Furthermore, as an integral member of the BRICS nations, India’s role in de-dollarization is instrumental in establishing alternative financial institutions.

The New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) have provided a platform for emerging economies to access development finance and financial resources during times of crisis. These institutions challenge the long-standing dominance of Western-led organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and offer a platform for a more equitable distribution of global financial resources. In geopolitical terms, India’s active participation in de-dollarization showcases its increasing assertiveness on the world stage.

By diversifying its currency reserves, India demonstrates its readiness to challenge the existing global financial system, one that has been largely controlled by developed economies. This assertiveness elevates India’s international standing and influences its position in international forums, where economic might is often correlated with geopolitical influence.

De-dollarization aligns with India’s broader foreign policy objectives of forging stronger ties with other emerging economies, such as those in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. By facilitating trade in local currencies, India can bolster its economic relationships with these regions, leading to increased investment, technological cooperation, and strategic partnerships. As a result, India is better poised to engage in comprehensive economic diplomacy that extends beyond traditional Western markets.

However, the process of de-dollarization is not without its challenges and risks. As the US dollar remains the world’s primary reserve currency, any significant decline in its value could have far-reaching consequences for the global economy. Such a scenario could impact the value of India’s dollar-denominated assets and disrupt the global financial system, causing ripple effects on the Indian economy.

Moreover, promoting the Indian Rupee as a global reserve currency comes with the responsibility of maintaining its stability and convertibility. India must demonstrate a commitment to sound economic policies, strong financial governance, and fiscal prudence to instil confidence in international investors and encourage the use of the Rupee in global transactions.

Viability of it all

With de-dollarization, India has had the opportunity to leverage its economic growth and increase its financial clout. By promoting trade in local currencies, it has managed to enhance its trade relationships with many countries, including Russia and Iran, who have faced sanctions from the US. India’s active role in de-dollarization through BRICS further underscores its significance in the shifting global economic landscape. The NDB, where India is a founding member, is an example of India’s proactive role in promoting alternative global financial institutions. It exemplifies a new world order where emerging economies like India can exercise more influence.

While India’s active role in de-dollarization presents numerous opportunities, it also warrants a careful evaluation of the challenges that lie ahead. One of the critical aspects to consider is the potential impact on India’s export competitiveness. As de-dollarization progresses, there could be fluctuations in the exchange rates of various currencies, including the Indian Rupee. A significant appreciation of the Rupee may make Indian exports less competitive in the global market, affecting export-driven industries such as textiles, manufacturing, and IT services. India’s policymakers must strike a delicate balance between promoting de-dollarization and maintaining export competitiveness to ensure sustained economic growth.

Furthermore, the success of de-dollarization efforts heavily relies on the support and cooperation of other nations. Convincing countries to adopt the Indian Rupee or other local currencies for international trade and investment requires considerable diplomatic efforts and mutual trust. Moreover, the willingness of global financial institutions and corporations to diversify away from the dollar also plays a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of de-dollarization initiatives.

Another challenge lies in managing the potential risks associated with increased exposure to multiple currencies. Holding a diversified portfolio of currencies as reserves means India will be exposed to exchange rate fluctuations in various currencies, which can be complex to manage effectively. It is essential for India’s central bank and policymakers to adopt prudent risk management strategies to safeguard the value of the country’s foreign currency reserves.

Additionally, de-dollarization could lead to currency wars, with countries competitively devaluing their currencies to gain a competitive advantage in trade. Such actions can escalate tensions between nations and trigger protectionist measures, leading to broader economic repercussions. India must tread carefully to avoid being inadvertently drawn into currency conflicts while pursuing its de-dollarization objectives. The process of de-dollarization requires continued structural reforms in India’s financial and economic sectors.

This includes enhancing the efficiency and transparency of financial markets, implementing investor-friendly policies, and improving the ease of doing business. Such reforms will be crucial in building confidence in the Indian economy and attracting greater foreign investment, further strengthening the Indian Rupee’s standing as an international currency. India’s efforts in de-dollarization must be complemented by a well-defined foreign policy strategy.

The country must navigate geopolitical complexities while promoting multilateralism and cooperation among diverse economies. Striking the right balance between safeguarding national interests and engaging in global economic cooperation will be pivotal in advancing India’s de-dollarization agenda.

Persisting Issues

Despite the potential benefits, de-dollarization also presents several challenges for India. First, the shift away from the dollar could lead to increased exchange rate volatility in the short term, given that the dollar is generally considered a stable currency.

Second, despite the progress, the global reach of the Indian Rupee is still limited compared to the US dollar, Euro, or Renminbi. Promoting the use of the Rupee in international trade is a long-term project that requires significant efforts to improve India’s economic stability, the robustness of its financial institutions, and international confidence in its currency.

Third, de-dollarization could potentially expose India to geopolitical risks. For instance, trading with sanctioned countries could put India at odds with the US, potentially leading to political or economic repercussions.

Fourth, de-dollarization may also impact India’s access to global financial markets. The dollar’s dominance in international finance has given the US a unique advantage in conducting monetary policy and access to cheaper borrowing costs. As de-dollarization progresses, there could be implications for India’s ability to raise capital from international markets, potentially leading to higher borrowing costs.

Moreover, the process of de-dollarization requires careful coordination among various nations. Convincing countries with entrenched interests and historical ties to the US dollar to shift their preferences can be a formidable task. Political and economic interests often collide in the arena of international finance, making it challenging to achieve a seamless transition away from the dollar-dominated system. A shift in currency preferences could lead to currency wars, where countries actively devalue their currencies to gain a competitive edge in trade. Such actions can escalate tensions between nations and harm global economic stability.

Another issue is the increasing digitalization of currencies, including cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As digital currencies gain prominence, they could pose a challenge to the existing fiat currencies, including the US dollar and the Indian Rupee. The rise of digital currencies can potentially disrupt the current global monetary system, and India must be vigilant in understanding and adapting to these technological advancements.

Conclusion

India’s role in de-dollarization reflects its growing prominence on the global stage. While the transition presents various opportunities, it also poses numerous challenges. These include managing exchange rate volatility, increasing the global reach of the Rupee, and mitigating geopolitical risks.

Yet, the process of de-dollarization is more of a marathon than a sprint. It is contingent on the collaborative efforts of nations looking to reduce dollar dependency, and India, with its considerable economic clout, has an important part to play. Through careful policy formulation and strategic diplomacy, India can not only navigate the risks associated with de-dollarization but also reap the long-term benefits that the process has to offer.

In the grand scheme of things, de-dollarization symbolizes a shift towards a multipolar world, where economic power is more evenly distributed, and India’s role in this new world order is undoubtedly significant. The journey ahead may be fraught with challenges, but with the right strategies, India stands to gain from the changing dynamics of global currency trade.

With all said and done, India’s role in the grand narrative of de-dollarization is not merely about the Rupee’s rise or the Dollar’s decline; it’s about a changing world order where emerging economies can chart their own economic destiny.

India’s active participation in the process of de-dollarization reflects its ambition to secure a stronger position in the global economy. By promoting trade in local currencies, India aims to reduce its dependence on the US dollar and diversify its financial risks. As a member of BRICS, India has taken steps to establish alternative financial institutions that challenge the dominance of Western-led institutions.

However, de-dollarization is not without its challenges. India needs to carefully manage exchange rate volatility, strengthen the global reach of the Indian Rupee, and mitigate geopolitical risks associated with trading with sanctioned countries. The nation must also strike a delicate balance in its foreign policy, maintaining strong economic ties with various nations while asserting its financial sovereignty. As de-dollarization unfolds, India must also adapt to the increasing digitization of currencies and the potential rise of cryptocurrencies. Policymakers must be forward-thinking in understanding the implications of these technological disruptions and devise strategies to leverage opportunities while managing risks.

In conclusion, de-dollarization is a complex and multifaceted process that is reshaping the global economic landscape. India’s role in this transformative journey is critical, and its actions will have far-reaching consequences for its own economy and the broader world. By navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by de-dollarization, India has the potential to establish itself as a significant player in the new multipolar global financial order.

As the transition continues, India must remain proactive in engaging with other nations to create a stable and resilient financial system that fosters inclusive growth and fosters cooperation among diverse economies. With a strategic and forward-looking approach, India can make a meaningful contribution to shaping the future of global currency trade and international finance.

In this pursuit, India’s journey towards de-dollarization should not be seen as an attempt to replace one dominant currency with another but as an opportunity to foster a more balanced and equitable global economic framework. As the nation forges ahead, it must draw on its rich history, cultural diversity, and economic dynamism to contribute to a world where economic power is more widely distributed, and every nation has a voice in shaping its economic destiny. De-dollarization, thus, embodies a new chapter in the story of India’s emergence as a global economic force, one that could define its role in the 21st century and beyond.

References

  1. Ghizoni, S. K. (2013, November 22). Creation of the Bretton Woods system. Federal Reserve History. https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/bretton-woods-created
  2. UNCTAD. (2023, April 4). BRICS Investment Report. UNCTAD. https://unctad.org/publication/brics-investment-report
  3. Council on Foreign Relations. (2023, July 19). The dollar: The World’s Reserve Currency. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/dollarworlds-reserve-currency/
  4. Liu, Z. Z. (2022, September 21). China is quietly trying to dethrone the dollar. Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/09/21/china-yuan-us-dollar-scocurrency/
  5. Huleppa, T. (2023). The status of de-dollarization in the Indian economy. THE STATUS OF DE-DOLLARIZATION IN THE INDIAN ECONOMY. https://www.jetir.org/papers/JETIR2301545.pdf
  6. Roy, A. (2023, July 12). India-Bangladesh trade settlement in INR: A new trend of de-dollarization of South Asia. The Geopolitics. https://thegeopolitics.com/indiabangladesh-trade-settlement-in-inr-a-new-trend-of-de-dollarization-of-south-asia/
  7. Sullivan, J. W. (2023, April 24). A BRICS currency could shake the dollar’s dominance. Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/04/24/brics-currency-enddollar-dominance-united-states-russia-china/
  8. The end of the king dollar? the forces at play in de-dollarisation. Tribune India. (2023, May 25). https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/business/the-end-of-king-dollar-the-orces-at-play-in-de-dollarization-511159
  9. Papa, M., & Conversation, T. (2023, June 25). How long will the dollar last as the world’s default currency? the BRICS nations are gathering in South Africa this August with it on the Agenda. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2023/06/25/dollar-reserve-currency-brics-brazil-russia-india-china-south-africa/

About the author

The author is a research intern at IMPRI and is currently pursuing M.Sc Public Policy and Management from Kings College London.

Authors

  • IMPRI

    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

    View all posts
  • Krishti khandelwal