India is not among the 60 countries that have signed a global declaration to keep the Internet open, free, and neutral. The countries that have signed the declaration include the US, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada and France. Called the ‘Declaration for the Future of the Internet’, the document is an agreement to prevent digital authoritarianism.

“Globally, we are witnessing a trend of rising digital authoritarianism where some states act to repress freedom of expression, censor independent news sites, interfere with elections, promote disinformation, and deny their citizens other human rights. At the same time, millions of people still face barriers to access and cybersecurity risks and threats undermine the trust and reliability of networks,” the White House said in a statement.

Countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, the European Commission and Finland are among the signatories.

India, China and Russia are among the large nations that are not part of this declaration.

According to a release by the European Commission, more countries are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks. The signatories do not include India. 

According to the statement, the Declaration represents a political commitment among the partners to advance a “positive vision for the Internet and digital technologies.”

The Declaration’s principles include commitments to protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, promote a global Internet that advances the free flow of information, advancing “inclusive and affordable” connectivity,  promote trust in the global digital ecosystem, including through protection of privacy and protecting and strengthening the multistakeholder approach to governance that keeps the Internet running for the benefit of all.

When asked about India staying away from the declaration, a senior US official at a press briefing said, “The hope remains that time isn’t fully passed yet for India to join.  But we’ve been engaged in — in very intensive efforts to have all of these — all of these countries join.”

“The declaration remains open.  And we remain confident that like-minded countries around the world will — will sign up,” the official added.

This comes even as a report from digital rights advocacy group Access Now said India is the top country to impose internet shutdowns in 2021 for the fourth consecutive year.

‘The return of digital authoritarianism: internet shutdowns’ report said, “With a gradual return to normalcy following the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a dramatic resurgence of internet shutdowns in 2021.”

A total of 182 internet crackdowns were reported globally in 2021. Out of 106 shutdowns in India, 85 were reported in Jammu and Kashmir. India was one of among 18 countries that blocked mobile internet during protests, the report said. The number of countries that shut down the internet in 2021 has increased to 34 from 29 in 2020.