Bangalore: Facebook Inc has no plans to offer its Calibra digital wallet services in its largest market, India, the social giant said, just as a top government official expressed skepticism about its newly-announced cryptocurrency Libra.
“There are no plans to offer Calibra in India," a Facebook spokesman said in an email, effectively ruling out the rollout of its Libra cryptocurrency in the country. “As you may know, there are local restrictions within India that made a launch of Calibra not possible at this time."
India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has banned banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies but informal networks abound. In an effort to curb them, the government is proposing a law with stringent penalties, including prison sentences of up to 10 years. Subhash Garg, the country’s economic affairs secretary, said in an interview to Bloomberg that India would not be comfortable with a private cryptocurrency.
“Calibra will respect the legislation," Alexandru Voica, a Facebook representative in London said by telephone. “But we are looking to work with regulators to see if the legislation can be updated."
India is Facebook’s largest market where the networking giant is already preparing for a countrywide rollout of its WhatsApp payments service, which has been in a yearlong pilot restricted to one million users.
The blockchain-based cryptocurrency, developed by Facebook, will be controlled by a consortium of organizations. However, it is at a very early stage, Voica said.
Facebook has had discussions with various governments on both the Libra cryptocurrency and the Calibra digital wallet. “The Libra Association is speaking to potential partners from around the world," said Voica without specifying whether it was speaking to the Indian government or with partners in the country. “The blockchain project has multiple uses in smart contracts, supply chain management and so on - it’s not just for cryptocurrencies ."