TikTok, Other Chinese Apps Banned
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- India and its neighbourhood relations
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources
In News: Days after India banned 59 Chinese apps for engaging in activities which are “prejudicial” to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, Beijing urged New Delhi to immediately “correct what it called discriminatory practices” against Chinese companies.
India has banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including the hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, for engaging in “activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
Reason stated by the Government
The move will “safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.” The IT ministry statement also said that it has received many complaints from various sources, including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for “stealing and covertly transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India”.
The ban has been enforced under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (“Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource”): “Where the Central Government or any of its officers specially authorised by it… is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, it may… by order, direct any agency of the Government or intermediary to block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.”
Was it a signal by the Government of India to China?
The decision comes amid continuing tensions between India and China, after the killing of 20 Indian soldiers on the Line of Actual Control
It is the first clear message from New Delhi that it will review the rules of engagement. This is an interim order and firms have been given 48 hours to respond to questions on their compliance with data security and privacy but this marks a decisive break from the past.
It serves as a statement of intent while sending a clear signal to China that there will be costs for acts of aggression. The fact that it has chosen to block the apps outright, rather than ensure they were complying with the law, suggests the ban is less motivated by privacy concerns than about sending a message to China
Will it affect these companies?
- All these three has their wide user base in India, with each claiming more than 100 million monthly active users, and their origins in China.
- Given that India’s digital economy is tracked globally, blocking access does impact the valuations of such companies.
The Way Forward
- On targeting a low hanging fruit: The ban on Chinese mobile apps is a low hanging fruit and a relatively soft target which is more signalling than substance. However, deterring Chinese behaviour on the border requires a tough diplomatic, economic and military response.
- India needs to reduce economic dependence on China: There is an asymmetry in power, a visible economic disparity. The Chinese economy is roughly five times larger than India’s. While India accounts for only 3 per cent of China’s exports, China (excluding Hong Kong) accounts for 14 per cent of India’s imports, and 5 per cent of exports. India remains reliant on Chinese products in several critical and strategically sensitive sectors, from semiconductors and active pharmaceutical ingredients to the telecom sector. Chinese vendors are involved not only in India’s 4G network but in on-going 5G trials as well.
Connecting the dots:
- Justice BN Srikrishna committee’s report on the data protection law