India Blocks TikTok Amidst Border Tensions With China

Yolanda Curtis
June 30, 2020

Indian officials barred 59 mobile apps, majority run by Chinese companies, on Monday, saying they were engaged in "activities" which were "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state and public order". As of now, users who already had the app installed on the phone are able to use the app just like usual.

The IT Ministry on Tuesday issued an order to Google and Apple to ban 59 applications from their stores in tune with the Centre's latest decision over security concerns, a spokesperson told The Indian Express. "We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications", Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok, India said.

The banned apps include TikTok, UC Browser WeChat and Bigo Live, as well as e-commerce platforms Club Factory and Shein, that are used in mobile and non-mobile devices connected to the internet, according to a government statement.

"The government believes these are data-mining apps that compromise the user's data and national security", said Salman Waris, managing partner at New Delhi-based specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors. Further, if we are requested to in the future, we could not do so.

An anti-China sentiment has been gaining mindshare in India in recent weeks ever since more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed over a clash in the Himalayas earlier this month.

The deaths have triggered outrage on social media with calls to boycott Chinese goods, with Chinese flags set on fire at scattered street protests.

Amid a standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the government of India banned 59 Chinese applications including widely popular Tik Tok on Monday.

Chinese electronic firms also have a major presence in India, with cellphone brands like Xiaomi and Oppo enjoying an nearly 65-percent market share.

Among other apps that have been banned are Tencent's WeChat, which has been downloaded more than 100 million times on Google's Android, Alibaba's UC Browser and two of Xiaomi's apps.

Indian startups that have significant investments from Chinese companies, such as Paytm, Ola and Oyo also donated to the COVID-19 relief fund.

Annual bilateral trade is worth some $90 billion, with a deficit of around $50 billion in China's favour.

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