Differences within the government have forced it to postpone a final decision on whether to ratify a three decade-old international convention against child abduction.
India has so far refused to sign the 1980 Hague Convention, but the new move follows renewed global pressure on the issue that has forced a rethink.
The Centre’s stand has been that the convention puts married Indian women abroad in a position of disadvantage in battles for child custody.
The latest move follows a rise in disputes among Indian couples settled abroad, particularly in the US and the UK.
There is a difference of opinion within the Centre. The ministries of women and child development (WCD) and external affairs are reportedly in favour of the treaty, but the law ministry is sticking to its position.
India was a signatory to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 countries. It saw no need to sign the Hague Convention, signed by 75 nations.
"The Hague Convention only stresses the prompt return of the child to the legal guardian and not welfare of the child, therefore we cannot not sign..," said a law ministry official.
"In majority of the cases, it is the father of the child who is a citizen of a foreign country, who manages to win the child in custody cases. The mother... ends up being a loser," the official said.
The WCD ministry believes Hague convention protects interests of a child and should be signed. "But the law ministry wants us to bring a law on child abduction, specifying rights of a child and that of the parents, which is under consideration," said a ministry official.