Following Deadly Clash, India bans 59 Chinese mobile apps over 'security' TV channels

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This illustration photo taken on June 29, 2020 shows a person using the video sharing app TikTok on a smartphone in New Delhi. Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP

India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the hugely popular TikTok and WeChat, on national security and privacy concerns two weeks after a deadly Himalayan border collision between its nuclear armed neighbors.

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Relations between the world's two most populous nations have been strained after 20 Indian troops died in hand-to-hand combat with their Chinese counterparts on the western end of the high-altitude, disputed border in mid-June.

The apps "engage in activities … that damage the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, state security and public order," the Ministry of Information Technology said in a statement.

"The Government of India has decided not to allow the use of certain apps … This decision is a targeted move to ensure the security and sovereignty of the Indian network."

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The statement said the move was made after the ministry received several complaints of alleged theft of users 'data and breaches of users' privacy.

It was unclear when the ban would take effect.

– Massive Indian User Base –

Most of the applications are very popular in India, including ByteDance-owned video sharing apps TikTok and Helo, file sharing apps SHAREit and Alibaba's UC browser and UC News, with a total user base of more than half a billion.

There are estimated to be around 120 million TikTok users in India, making the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people the app's largest international market.

Other apps on the banned list include the micro-blogging app Weibo and the strategy game Clash of Kings.

But anger has been brewing over India since the soldiers were killed in a fight along the disputed border in the North Ladakh region on June 15 in the deadliest face in nearly half a century between the two countries.

It was the first time troops have been killed at their border since 1975. Beijing has not disclosed whether there were any casualties among their troops.

India and China fought a war across the border in 1962.

New Delhi has accused China of invading its territory in the region, a Beijing prosecutor has denied.

The violence on June 15 took place around 4,500 meters above sea level in the Galwan River valley, next to Aksai Chin, a strategic corridor linking Tibet with western China.

Thousands of soldiers are still on guard, though both sides said they were trying to resolve the standoff through dialogue.

– Anti-China sentiment –

The deaths triggered massive outrage and street protests in India. Chinese businesses were banned from exporting nearly $ 60 billion worth of goods to India.

A senior minister of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government demanded a ban on Chinese food, while a prominent trade union said it would boycott a number of goods imported from China.

A hotel association told last week that they would not allow Chinese guests to stay at their properties.

Millions of Native Americans downloaded "Remove China Apps," a mobile application that helped users discover and delete Chinese software before it was removed by Google from the Play Store.

Media reports said that Chinese broadcasts were being held by customs in the major Indian ports.

However, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, which has more than 30 percent of the Indian market, is marketing itself as a company in line with the government's slogan "Make in India", a clear grip on countering anti-Chinese sentiment.

Chinese mobiles have an almost 65 percent share in the local smartphone market.

From toys, cosmetics, makeup and handbags to home appliances, pharmaceuticals, auto components and steel, China exports more than 3000 products to India.

Beijing's direct investment has risen from $ 1.6 billion in 2014 to at least $ 8 billion in 2017, while planned and current investments are estimated at $ 26 billion, according to the US think tank Brookings.

Chinese investors have also plowed millions of dollars into major Indian start-ups including the Zomato delivery app and the Paytm payment app.

AFP

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