Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said India’s surprise move to ban 59 Chinese apps days after a violent face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh was a “digital strike”.
“We banned Chinese apps to protect data of countrymen. It was a digital strike,” Prasad said at a BJP rally in West Bengal on Thursday.
“Now you can hear about only two ‘Cs’–coronavirus and China. We believe in peace and solve problems through discussion, but if somebody casts an evil eye on India, we will give a befitting reply… if our 20 jawans have sacrificed their lives, then the toll is double on the Chinese side. You all must have noticed that they have not come out with any figure,” Prasad said, echoing a similar statement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made last week on the India-China border tension.
A section of the media had called India’s move to ban the Chinese apps, including the wildly popular TikTok, a “digital airstrike” in allusion to India bombing a camp of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan’s Balakot in February last year.
India was TikTok’s top market, accounting for 30 per cent of its two billion downloads worldwide. TikTok parent ByteDance had laid out plans to invest $1 billion in India and had hired several senior executives since 2019.
The rest 58 apps with Chinese links blocked by the government include WeChat and UC Browser. The Indian government’s TikTok account MyGov, which had 1.1 million followers, has been disabled. Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, has deleted PM Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy.
India’s surprise move has affected Chinese tech firms at a time when they are starting to make inroads into the country’s vast market where mobile phone usage is high and data is relatively cheaper compared to other nations.
At the rally on Thursday, Prasad also attacked the Mamata Banerjee government. “We are witnessing a strange trend in Bengal; the ruling TMC (Trinamool Congress) had earlier asked why we were not banning the apps, now they want to know why we are banning the apps. This is strange, why can’t they stand with the government at the time of crisis?”