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With the transition to a market-based system for determining the external value of the Indian rupee the foreign exchange market in India gained importance in the early reform period.


For a long time, foreign exchange in India was treated as a controlled commodity because of its limited availability. The early stages of foreign exchange management in the country focussed on control of foreign exchange by regulating the demand due to its limited supply. Exchange control was introduced in India under the Defence of India Rules on September 3, 1939 on a temporary basis. The statutory power for exchange control was provided by the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) of 1947, which was subsequently replaced by a more comprehensive Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. This Act empowered the Reserve Bank, and in certain cases the Central Government, to control and regulate dealings in foreign exchange payments outside India, export and import of currency notes and bullion, transfer of securities between residents and non-residents, acquisition of foreign securities, and acquisition of immovable property in and outside India, among other transactions.

Extensive relaxations in the rules governing foreign exchange were initiated, prompted by the liberalisation measures introduced since 1991 and the Act was amended as a new Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Act 1993. Significant developments in the external sector, such as, substantial increase in foreign exchange reserves, growth in foreign trade, rationalisation of tariffs, current account convertibility, liberalisation of Indian investments abroad, increased access to external commercial borrowings by Indian corporates and participation of foreign institutional investors in Indian stock market, resulted in a changed environment. Keeping in view the changed environment, the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) was enacted in 1999 to replace FERA. FEMA became effective from June 1, 2000.

Liberalised Approach

Foreign Investment

External Commercial Borrowings

Liberalised Remittance Scheme

Currency Futures

Exchange Rate Policy

Foreign Exchange Reserves Management

FEMA aims at facilitating external trade and payments and for promoting the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange markets in India. Emphasising the shift in focus, the Reserve Bank in due course also amended (since January 31, 2004) the name of its department dealing with the foreign exchange transactions to Foreign Exchange Department from Exchange Control Department.