Reserve Bank of India to offer payment options to Russian companies
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to announce a raft of measures in the next few days — after consultations with the Centre — to enable payments to Russian companies that have been kicked out of a global network in the wake of economic sanctions slapped by the West.
On Friday, officials from the central bank conferred with a handful of state-owned lenders, including State Bank of India (SBI) and Uco Bank to take stock of the situation and determine their exposure to Russia.
Indian companies have been caught in a crossfire after the crisis in Ukraine erupted with the Russian invasion, severely hampering the realisation of export proceeds and payments for critical imports from Russia.
Incidentally, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das had also met Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the capital. It is, however, not clear if the developments in Russia were discussed.
Sources said the RBI is waiting for the government to make an announcement on the rupee-rouble payment mechanism that will ensure the continuation of trade between India and Russia. The central bank is also expected to announce other operational steps once this is done.
This may help Russian banks and financial institutions circumvent a roadblock after being denied access to the SWIFT messaging network that is used by all financial entities.
The government is reportedly looking at routing payments through banks in other ex-EU countries where both Russian and Indian banks are present.
Recently, the SBI had halted the processing of transactions involving Russian entities that have been subject to international sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. The country’s largest lender had said that no transactions involving entities, banks, ports or vessels appearing on a US, European Union or United Nations sanctions list will be processed irrespective of the currency of the transaction.
“It all depends on bilateral talks between the Russian and Indian governments where the mechanism for the rupee-rouble trade will have to be finalised. The RBI has little say in this matter,” a source said.
During the first nine months of the current financial year, trade between Russia and India stood at $ 9.4 billion as compared with $ 8.1 billion 2020-21.
Russia is one of biggest suppliers of defence products and equipment to India.
Its main imports from the country include fuels, mineral oils, pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment and fertilisers. On the other hand, major export items from India include pharmaceutical products, electrical machinery and equipment, organic chemicals and vehicles.
While the SBI has a joint venture with Canara Bank in Russia-Commercial Indo Bank (LLC), Calcutta-based UCO Bank could play a crucial role in the coming days as India looks to continue trade with Russia but avoid sanctions.