G7 accommodates Indian stand on Internet curbs:
Internet freedoms are subject to national security, said government sources, claiming that India’s tough negotiations on the joint communique issued by G7 and Guest Countries at the session on Open Societies, had ensured that the original language criticising “Internet shutdowns” had been amended to include New Delhi’s concerns.
The explanation came after the ‘G7 and Guest Countries: 2021 Open Societies Statement’ referred to “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” which indirectly addresses Internet blackouts in various parts of the world including India.
Kashmir has experienced Internet and mobile telephony shutdown since Article 370 was amended on August 5, 2019. Similar communication shutdowns were witnessed in Delhi and Assam during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act during 2019-2020 and the farmer’s protest last January. Communication shutdowns were also witnessed in other parts of the world including Hong Kong where a protest against Chinese security laws intensified during 2019. The G7 statement also took note of developments in military-ruled Myanmar as well as in larger economies.
“We are at a critical juncture, facing threats to freedom and democracy from rising authoritarianism, electoral interference, corruption, economic coercion, manipulation of information, including disinformation, online harms and cyber attacks, politically motivated Internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism,” declared the statement referring to the problems facing the democratic world.
The assertion in the statement appears to touch upon several issues that are sensitive in nature as they are often subjected to public debate in India. Sources indicate that the mention of the topics in the statement took place in the backdrop of sustained exchange of opinion between G7 and Indian teams. Government sources said that “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” clarified that national security and public order concerns are an exception to the need for Internet freedoms
According to the sources, during his visit to London in early may, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had fielded several questions about the government’s actions against protestors and the clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir after August 5, 2019.
The sources said Mr. Jaishankar had “made it clear” that law and order concerns were important and public safety had to be prioritised when regulating flow of information. He also had fielded specific questions about the Internet shutdown for months in Jammu Kashmir as well as during the Republic Day protests by farmers in Delhi this year. Mr Jaishankar had attended the meetings virtually as he was under quarantine in London after some officials tested positive for coronavirus.
The G7 Foreign Ministers-level statement issued earlier in May, however, had also referred to “Internet shutdowns” as a subject that the organisation is aiming to counter.