Congress leaders on Monday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his speech at the G7 summit, where he said that India was a natural ally of the group in defending “shared values” from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion.
In a tweet, Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the Modi government should practise what it preaches to the world. “PM Modi’s speech at the G7 Outreach meeting is inspiring as well as ironic,” he tweeted.
The Congress leader also said it was sad that Modi was the only leader who did not attend the summit physically. “Because India is an outlier as far as the fight against Covid 19 is concerned,” he said, answering why the prime minister did not participate in the event physically. “We are the most infected and least vaccinated country (as a proportion of the population).”
Congress leader Kapil Sibal took a dig at the central government, alleging that it signs statements of values of “freedom of expression, both online and offline” but violates them in the country.
Sibal alleged that freedom of expression was devalued in the country because of internet shutdowns and sedition cases against journalists, students and academics.
The statements came as India on Sunday signed a joint statement by G7 countries on “open societies”, which upholds “human rights for all, both online and offline” and the freedom of expression. The statement referred to “politically motivated internet shutdowns” as one of the threats to freedom and democracy.
However, India is a leading offender in this category. It recorded the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2020, according to a report by digital rights and privacy organisation Access Now on March 3.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted that while Modi had urged the G7 countries to support a proposal to temporarily waive the patent on coronavirus vaccines, the Centre does not invoke compulsory licensing.
“One stance for the world, another in India,” he tweeted. Compulsory licensing is when a government allows a party to produce a patented product or undertake a patented process without the consent of the patent owner.
Invited as a lead speaker to the session on open societies and economies, Modi had stressed on the need to ensure that cyberspace remains an avenue for advancing democratic values and not for subverting it, the prime minister’s office said.
The prime minister called upon technology companies and social media platforms to ensure a safe cyber environment for the users, Additional Secretary (economic relations) of the Foreign Ministry, P Harish, said in a press briefing on the G7 summit. The comments assume significance on the domestic front also, as the Centre and social media companies tussle over the implementation of new information technology rules.
At the session on climate change, Modi sought collective action and said this challenge couldn’t be addressed in silos, claiming that India was the only G20 country on track to meet its Paris Accord commitments.