With concerns rising over the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, India is moving towards joining a global initiative aimed at disrupting supplies that could pose a security threat.
Discussions are at an advanced stage for India's participation in the US-led Container Security Initiative (CSI), a multi-national programme for monitoring and disrupting supplies of dangerous items before they can reach the shores of a participating country.
Conceptualised after the September 2001 terror attacks in the US, CSI is designed to safeguard global maritime trade while allowing cargo containers to move faster and more efficiently through the supply chain at seaports worldwide.
It is designed to prevent containerised shipping from being exploited by terrorists.
"The CSI has strategic as well as commercial dimensions," a source told PTI in New Delhi, while citing the reasons for India's keen interest to join the club.
By participation in CSI, India can ensure better national security by preventing any dangerous items from reaching its shores.
With regard to commercial advantages, sources said the participation was aimed at ensuring unhindered movement of items across the globe, particularly those having genuine technological use but suspected by some of having dual use.
India's list of items having dual use does not match with that of the US and other Western countries and there is a need to have convergence on these, sources said.
India's participation in CSI will enable it to register its voice on dual use issues and matters that concern the country's developmental needs.
The issue was discussed about a week ago when KC Singh, Additional Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, held talks in New Delhi with US Acting Under Secretary for Non- Proliferation John C Rood on non-proliferation issues.
With India's overseas business engagement expanding, the government apprehends that the difference of perception on dual use items could hamper supplies of items, particularly those critical for its technological development.
On the domestic front too, the government has started reaching out to industry to apprise businessmen about items that are banned in the international market.
Lack of knowledge about these items leads to problems at times for businessmen, the sources said.
CSI proposes a security regime to ensure that all containers which pose a potential risk for terrorism are identified and inspected at foreign ports.
It offers participant countries, on reciprocal basis, the opportunity to send custom officers to major US ports to target ocean-going, containerised cargo to be exported to their territories.
CSI addresses the threat to global trade posed by the potential for terrorist use of a maritime container to deliver a weapon.