Dual-use goods and technologies refer to items, software, or technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications. Read here to learn more about them.
Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Department of Commerce in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and other Government Agencies is organizing the National Conference on Strategic Trade Controls (NCSTC), focusing on India’s Strategic Trade Control [related to Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET) and Export Controls] system and its International Best Practices, for ensuring compliance related to the export of dual-use (industrial and military) goods, software, and technologies.
India regulates the exports of dual-use items, nuclear-related items, and military items, including software and technology under the SCOMET list, which is notified by DGFT under the Foreign Trade Policy.
Dual-use goods and technologies
These goods and technologies often pose a significant challenge in terms of regulation and export control because while they are necessary for a wide range of commercial and research activities, they can also potentially be used to develop weapons, including weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Examples of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
- Nuclear Materials: Uranium, which can be used for nuclear power generation as well as in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
- Chemicals: Certain chemicals used in pharmaceuticals or industrial processes can also be used in the production of chemical weapons. Chemicals like chlorine are used for water purification, and others are used in pharmaceuticals, plastics, and agriculture. Some of these chemicals can also be precursors for chemical weapons like nerve agents or mustard gas.
- Biological Agents: Pathogens and toxins used in medical research or vaccine production can be weaponized in biological warfare.
- Advanced Computing: High-performance computers and software can be used in civilian industries like animation or weather modeling but also for military applications like simulations and encryption.
- Artificial intelligence: As more advances are made towards artificial intelligence (AI), it garners more and more attention on its capability as a dual-use technology and the security risks it may pose. Artificial intelligence can be applied within many different fields and can be easily integrated throughout current technology’s cyberspace.
- Aerospace Technology: Technologies used in civilian aviation can also be applied in military aircraft and missile technology. Technologies developed for space exploration benefit telecommunications, weather monitoring, and GPS systems. Similar technologies are used in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and military satellites.
- Robotics and Drones: Initially developed for military use, these are now widely used in various civilian sectors but still retain significant military potential.
- Materials Technology: Certain advanced materials, such as carbon fiber, have applications in both civilian industries and military weapon systems.
- Encryption Software and Cybersecurity Tools: These are essential for protecting sensitive data in banking, healthcare, and communications. Encryption and cybersecurity tools are also crucial for protecting state secrets and conducting intelligence operations.
- Surveillance and Sensing Equipment: Technologies like high-resolution cameras, infrared sensors, and sonar are used in environmental monitoring, search and rescue operations, and autonomous vehicles. These technologies are critical in reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and target identification in military contexts.
- 3D Printing Technology: 3D printing has revolutionized prototyping and manufacturing in industries from automotive to healthcare, where it’s used for prosthetics and organ models. The technology is also used to produce parts for weapons systems and potentially in the future, for manufacturing entire weapons.
Challenges in Regulation
- Determining End-Use: It’s often difficult to determine the end-use of a dual-use item, particularly if the end-user is not transparent about their intentions.
- International and National Laws: Complying with a complex web of international treaties and national laws can be challenging for companies dealing with dual-use items.
- Technological Advances: Rapid technological advances can outpace the regulatory frameworks, leading to gaps in controls.
- Global Supply Chains: The global nature of supply chains complicates the monitoring and regulation of dual-use goods and technologies.
Various international agreements and regimes attempt to control the export and proliferation of dual-use items:
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG): Controls the export of nuclear material and technology.
- Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR): Aims to restrict the proliferation of missiles and drone technology.
- Australia Group: Focuses on controlling exports that could contribute to chemical and biological weapons.
- Wassenaar Arrangement: A multilateral export control regime that deals with conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.
Countries typically have their own sets of regulations governing the export of dual-use items. For instance:
- In the United States, the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) govern the export of dual-use goods.
- The European Union has its own set of controls that member states are required to implement.
The management and regulation of dual-use goods and technologies remain a critical aspect of global security efforts. While these items are essential for various beneficial civilian applications, their potential military uses require a careful and well-regulated approach to ensure they do not contribute to the proliferation of weapons, especially WMDs. Balancing commercial and research interests with national and international security concerns is a complex but essential task for governments and international bodies alike.
-Article by Swathi Satish