India on Tuesday banned 59 mobile apps with Chinese links on grounds that they present a danger to the country’s national security, drawing a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
New Delhi’s decision came against the backdrop of an ongoing stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces in the Himalayan border region of Ladakh. Clashes on June 15, that left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
Many popular apps like TikTok, WeChat, Shareit and BigoLive were banned.
The Information Technology Ministry said the apps were prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
It said there were raging concerns about data security and safeguarding the privacy of 1.3 billion Indians.
The ministry said it had received many complaints from various sources about apps that were stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner.
By Tuesday morning, Beijing headquartered tech-giant ByteDance’s TikTok and Helo apps were removed from the Apple App store and the Google Play store.
Beijing said it was strongly concerned about the development.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that India had a responsibility to safeguard the rights and interests of Chinese companies in accordance with market principles.
“The cooperation between China and India in a pragmatic field is mutually beneficial and win-win.
This cooperation pattern has been artificially damaged and it is actually not compatible with India’s own interest,’’ he said.
The Chinese companies had been invited to submit clarifications to the government, which will decide whether the ban can be removed or will stay.
Among the apps banned by India include the microblogging service Weibo, Alibaba’s UC Browser and e-ecommerce platforms like Club Factory and Shein.
The ban on Chinese apps comes amid widespread outrage and protests across India after the fighting in Ladakh in which Indian soldiers were attacked by Chinese troops by batons studded with nails and stones.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under increasing public pressure to ban Chinese businesses.
However, New Delhi could find the going tough as China is India’s biggest trading partner and several Indian companies are backed by Chinese capital.
Chinese mobiles have a major share in the Indian smartphone market.
India is also said to be TikTok’s biggest international market with an estimated 120 million users, reports said.
Security warnings regarding video-sharing app TikTok have come mainly from the U.S., where it has faced allegations of links to the Chinese state as well as of sending user data to China.
Some senators have called for an investigation into the company.