Open democracies under tech threat: Modi

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India's prime minister says technology and data are the new weapons of the digital era and democracies need to be aware of their dangers as well as opportunities.

Narendra Modi told an Australian Strategic Policy Institute forum India would not let "a few vested interests" misuse the openness of democracy.

"The digital age is changing everything around us. It has redefined politics, economy and society. It is raising new questions on sovereignty, governance, ethics, law, rights and security," Mr Modi told the virtual event on Thursday.

"But we also face new risks, and new forms of conflicts across diverse threats from sea-bed to cyber to space."

He labelled technology and data the weapons of the digital era.

"The biggest strength of democracy is openness. At the same time, we should not allow a few vested interests to misuse this openness," Mr Modi said.

The Indian government has been accused of repression and censorship.

United States based not-for-profit Freedom House earlier this year downgraded India from a free to partially free democracy.

Mr Modi touted India's tech developments including digital identification covering more than 1.3 billion people.

He also urged nations to work together to ensure Bitcoin "does not end up in the wrong hands, which can spoil our youth".

Introducing Mr Modi at the forum, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said India and Australia were co-operating on technologies including critical minerals and cybersecurity.

The two nations were "working together to ensure global technology rules and norms reflect shared values in support of a stable, open and prosperous region", Mr Morrison said.

India is part of the Quad partnership involving Australia, Japan and the United States.

Australia is seeking to set up a consulate-general in the southern city of Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore, considered India's IT capital.

India and Australia aim to seal an interim trade deal by the year's end.

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