Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday said the international community must jointly shape global norms for technology such as “social media and cryptocurrencies” so that they are used to empower democracy, “not undermine it”.
Prime Minister Modi made these remarks at the first Summit for Democracy convened by US President Joe Biden on Friday. These come amid a tussle between the government and social media firms on multiple issues including content and freedom of speech.
A day earlier, Modi had said — at a closed-door session on the first day of the summit — that given technology’s ability to affect democracy positively or negatively, “technology companies should contribute to preserving open and democratic societies”.
On Friday, delivering the national statement, the Prime Minister said: “Today’s assembly provides a timely platform for furthering cooperation among democracies. India would be happy to share its expertise in holding free and fair elections, and in enhancing transparency in all areas of governance through innovative digital solutions. We must also jointly shape global norms for emerging technologies like social media and cryptocurrencies, so that they are used to empower democracy, not to undermine it.”
Cryptocurrencies have come under increased scrutiny in India, with the government recently unveiling plans for strict regulation.
This is the second instance in recent times that Modi has underlined the need for global norms for emerging technologies like cryptocurrencies on the world stage. Last month, addressing the Sydney Dialogue, Modi cited cryptocurrency or bitcoin and said: “It is important that all democratic nations work together on this and ensure it does not end up in the wrong hands, which can spoil our youth.”
On Friday, the PM said elements such as multi-party elections, an independent judiciary, and free media are structural features of democracy. Modi, however, added that the basic strength of democracy is the spirit and ethos that lie “within our citizens and our societies”.
Modi began his brief speech by talking of a democratic spirit in Indian civilizations.
“I am proud to represent the world’s largest democracy at this Summit. The democratic spirit is integral to our civilization ethos,” Modi said.
Stating that elected republican city-states such as Licchavi and Shakya flourished in India as far as 2,500 years back, Modi said: “This very democratic spirit and ethos had made ancient India one of the most prosperous.
“Centuries of colonial rule could not suppress the democratic spirit of the Indian people. It again found full expression with India’s independence, and led to an unparalleled story in democratic nation-building over the last 75 years.”
The PM said: “It is a story of unprecedented socio-economic inclusion in all spheres. It is a story of constant improvements in health, education, and human well-being at an unimaginable scale. The India story has one clear message to the world. That democracy can deliver, that democracy has delivered, and that democracy will continue to deliver.”
Participating in the first Summit for Democracy a day before on Thursday, Prime Minister Modi had said that the “democratic spirit, including respect for rule of law and pluralistic ethos, is ingrained in Indians”, sources said.
He was speaking in a closed-door session on Thursday, where he was invited to participate in the main Leaders’ Plenary Session hosted by US President Biden.
This virtual Summit envisages participation of leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector. As the world’s largest democracy, India has commended this innovative initiative, sources said. India has always stood ready to share its experiences with fellow democracies, a source said.
Pakistan skipped the Democracy Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden, who invited around 110 countries to a virtual summit on December 9-10. Pakistan’s all-weather ally, China, has not been invited to attend the Summit.
Islamabad’s decision is understood to be in reaction to the US inviting Taiwan instead of Beijing, which was against the “One China” policy pursued by Islamabad.
China on Thursday accused the US of “weaponizing” democracy and attacked the Biden administration’s initiative of the Alliance for the Future of the Internet, saying it is aimed at maintaining America’s cyber hegemony.
The invitees from the Asia-Pacific region include India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Pakistan, Maldives and the Philippines, but not Bangladesh.