The Centre has blocked 59 apps with Chinese links that include the hugely popular TikTok, WeChat and UC Browser, amid a huge economic backlash against China following the June 15 clashes at Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers died in action. Inputs from intelligence agencies suggest that the apps have been violating the terms of usage, compromising users privacy, and being used as spyware or malware. Within minutes of the announcement, the Indian government's TikTok account MyGov, which had 1.1 million followers, was disabled. The move comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India has given a "befitting response" to China. He also spoke of the countrywide call for boycott of Chinese goods, juxtaposing it against the government's "Atma Nirbhar Bharat" campaign. "We will buy local and be vocal for local and this will help India become stronger," he said.
The Indian government on Monday banned nearly 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, WeChat and UC Browser and Xiaomi’s Mi Community over national security concerns as India-China bilateral relations remain strained after the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese PLA troops in eastern Ladakh.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued a list of 59 Chinese apps that are now banned in the country.
“These measures have been undertaken since there is credible information that these apps are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” said a MeitY statement.
The ministry received complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India.
“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement read.
The MeitY said the move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile users.
“There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” said the government.
Other Chinese apps in the banned list are Club Factory, SHAREit, Likee, Mi Video Call (Xiaomi), Weibo, Baidu, Bigo Live and more.
Earlier this month, Indian intelligence agencies red-flagged these Chinese apps over safety and privacy issues of users.
The government needs to either block access to these apps or advise people to stop their use, according to the intel inputs, said the agencies.
The report comes amid growing chorus from Indian activists to boycott Chinese products due to the border tensions between the two countries in Ladakh.
The recommendations of the intelligence agencies have the backing of the National Security Council Secretariat which determined that certain China-linked applications could be detrimental to the country’s security, said the report citing an unnamed government official.
The statement from the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology said it had received an “exhaustive recommendation” from the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The ministry said it also received representations from people on “security of data and risk to privacy” regarding certain apps.
The move comes amid a countrywide call from traders and civil society to boycott Chinese products and services after the June 15 clashes. The government had chipped in with a bar on Chinese equipment for the 4G upgradation of the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and sacking of a Chinese firm that had a Rs 471-crore railways contract.
Last week, the government also made the mention of the “Country of Origin” mandatory for sellers listing their products in the Government e-Marketplace — a move that’s expected to add to the odds against Chinese products. E-commerce companies including Amazon and Flipkart, have decided to follow suit.
Experts suggested that the ban on apps is a major blow to China’s Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding millions of dollars from the valuation of its companies. This could also lead to more countries following India’s path in acting against these Apps.
“The Modi government shows its tremendous resolve and dexterity of engaging China on multiple fronts and hitting China where it hurts the most,” said a party source. “This is India’s first salvo to China after the border clashes, showing that India has a diverse range of retaliatory options,” he added.
Here is the full list of apps that have been banned:
4. UC Browser
5. Baidu map
7. Clash of Kings
8. DU battery saver
11. YouCam makeup
12. Mi Community
13. CM Browers
14. Virus Cleaner
15. APUS Browser
17. Club Factory
19. Beutry Plus
21. UC News
22. QQ Mail
25. QQ Music
26. QQ Newsfeed
27. Bigo Live
29. Mail Master
30. Parallel Space
31. Mi Video Call — Xiaomi
33. ES File Explorer
34. Viva Video — QU Video Inc
36. Vigo Video
37. New Video Status
38. DU Recorder
39. Vault- Hide
40. Cache Cleaner DU App studio
41. DU Cleaner
42. DU Browser
43. Hago Play With New Friends
44. Cam Scanner
45. Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile
46. Wonder Camera
47. Photo Wonder
48. QQ Player
49. We Meet
50. Sweet Selfie
51. Baidu Translate
53. QQ International
54. QQ Security Center
55. QQ Launcher
56. U Video
57. V fly Status Video
58. Mobile Legends
59. DU Privacy