The Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of UAE have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on collaboration and innovation in financial services, with a focus on central bank digital currency (CBDC) interoperability. The parties will develop a proof-of-concept and pilot program for a CBDC bridge to facilitate remittances and trade, which would reduce costs and increase efficiency of transactions, as well as strengthen economic ties between the two countries.
India and UAE banking officials had discussions in February regarding a rupee-dirham payment system using correspondent banks, which has been under development for a year. The countries currently use US dollars to settle payments. The UAE remains a major source of remittances to India, accounting for 17-18% of the total of around $87 billion, as of July 2022.
India has a domestic digital rupee pilot project with 50,000 users and 5,000 participating merchants, and has been testing its CBDC’s offline functionality. The RBI has also reported that it completed around 800,000 transactions worth $134 million with its wholesale CBDCs.
The UAE launched a nine-part financial transformation program and announced its intention to launch a CBDC for domestic and cross-border use in February. Emirati banks had already participated in the mBridge pilot project, along with banks in Hong Kong, China and Thailand, to use CBDC for cross-border transfers. Additionally, the UAE expects cryptocurrency to “play a major role for UAE trade going forward,” according to the UAE minister of state for foreign trade, Thani Al-Zeyoudi, who spoke at the World Economic Forum in January.
Overall, the MOU between the RBI and Central Bank of UAE will facilitate the development of a CBDC bridge that will enable easier and more cost-effective remittances and trade between India and the UAE. Both countries have been exploring the potential of CBDCs for some time, with India having already launched a domestic digital rupee pilot project and the UAE launching a financial transformation program and mBridge pilot project.