Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on democracies to work together on cutting-edge technologies to promote democratic values, outlining a “historic moment of choice” between conflict and cooperation.
Speaking via videolink at a summit on emerging technologies in Sydney, Australia on Thursday, Modi said the digital era had created opportunities for progress and prosperity but also the risk of new forms of conflict.
“We can work together to empower nations and their people and prepare them for the opportunity of the century,” Modi told the inaugural Sydney Dialogue, which was organised by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-funded think-tank.
“That is also important for building a future of this world that reflects our democratic ideals and values. That is as important as our own national security and prosperity.”
Modi said the way countries used technology reflected their values.
“India’s democratic traditions are old, its modern institutions are strong, and we have always believed in the world as one family,” said Modi, who is among a roster of speakers at the two-day summit that also includes former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Indian leader also warned against unspecified “vested interests” using the values of democratic nations against them.
“Technology and data are becoming new weapons,” Modi said. “The biggest friend of democracy is openness. At the same time, we should not allow a few vested interests to misuse this openness. Friends, as a democracy and digital leader, India is ready to work with partners for our shared prosperity and security. India’s democracy is rooted in our democracy and the scale of our economy.”
Modi said India was at the forefront of developing new technologies, pointing to government initiatives to connect 600,000 villages to broadband and roll out new digital payment systems.
Modi, whose keynote address was introduced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, described India and Australia’s relations as “a force of good for the region and the world”
“India, Australia and our partners in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond hear the call of our times, and we are prepared to rise to fulfil our responsibilities,” he said.
New Delhi and Canberra have fostered closer ties in recent years amid shared concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Modi and Morrison last year announced the signing of a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” aimed at boosting cooperation in areas including trade, education and defence. The two countries are also members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, involving the United States and Japan. Australia and China are embroiled in a raft of disputes centred around national security and trade. New Delhi and Beijing are involved in a number of border disputes that spilled over into violent skirmishes in 2020.
Modi said the digital age had introduced new areas of competition between countries.
“It is raising new questions on sovereignty, governance, ethics, law, rights and security,” he said. “It is reshaping international competition, power and leadership. It has ushered in a new era of opportunities for progress and prosperity, but we also face new risks and new forms of conflicts across diverse straits, from seabed to cyber to space.”