India-China relations have always been in the headlines as a matter of territorial disputes. Anti-China sentiment has been high in India after Chinese troops illegally entered the Indian Territory and tried to acquire the disputed land that is under the Indian government as of now which leads to the face-off between Indian and Chinese forces on the Indo-China border in Galwan Valley. In this context, many soldiers were killed from both sides.
Ban on Chinese apps in India
India in 2020, Owing to the National Security thread took major action against Chinese applications. The Central Government of India issued an interim order to ban 59 Chinese applications in the first round. These include widely popular applications such as TIKTOK, UC Browser, SHARE-IT, etc. The first ban was followed by another set of 47 apps that were barred from operations in India from July 2020. Later, the Centre further imposed a ban on 118 Chinese mobile apps, which included the popular gaming platform PUB-G as well as BAIDU, which is China’s largest search engine provider. These apps are mostly of Chinese origin or have a major part of investments from Chinese Companies.
The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, an executive agency of the Union Government of India, through a press release, stated that Chinese apps are a serious threat to the National Security of the state and the privacy of Indian citizens as per Section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2020. The agency issued an explanation that these apps are illegally exporting user data information outside India in an unauthorized manner. That makes a serious concern for the privacy issue for the Indian Government and Citizens. The agency had received many complaints regarding the same issue from various sources about the misuse of some mobile applications for stealing and transmitting private data to servers located outside India.
Does India have the power to ban these Chinese applications as per Law?
“Section69-A of Information Technology Act, 2000, gives power to the Central Government or any of its officers specially authorized by it in this behalf to issue directions for blocking the public access of any information through any computer resource that is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above.
How government enforced the ban?
The Centre issued a notification to all the internet service providers to block all these banned applications from their servers in India. Although, the applications which are pre-installed on mobile phones may continue to exist on the devices. But as the new version of the applications has been removed from Google’s Play Store and App Store, the users will not be able to use the updated versions in future. Also, users are likely to see a message interpreting ‘access to the apps has been restricted on the request of the Indian Government’. These applications will no longer be available to access in India through any virtual private network or any other advanced technology.
Impact of Ban on Chinese Apps in India
- Protection of privacy and data security
The Indian government has banned Chinese apps in India to protect internet security. This is because such apps allow the transfer of personal information to a third party which includes messages, calls, contacts, location data, images, and even bank account details. Hence, not only will the ban protect India’s cyber security, but it will make people realize their duty and patriotism toward the country.
- Reduction in Digital Dependency
Indian start-ups and established local companies will get benefitted to gain a user base in India after China’s user base came to an end. This will lead to more downloads of all the Indian apps available in the market and would promote our Prime Minister’s effort of going vocal for locals. This step will reduce the digital dependency on other countries and becoming more self-reliant.
- Initiative for Home-grown applications
People have already started using Indian alternatives for these banned apps and are seems to be quite happy with the performance. That encourages home-grown talents to create more apps within India and get an appreciation for such initiative
- Huge Contribution to GDP
India has always been an attractive marketplace for investors. After its recent ban on Chinese apps, the Indian government seeks more investments in its Local Technology Industry that would encourage significant growth in the Indian economy. In addition, this banis expected to bring a contribution to the GDP by increasing domestic production and innovations in the digital space.
Impact of Ban on China
China threatened to approach World Trade Organisation (WTO) against this move. It further stated that India while taking such a decision has violated the regulations of fair trade practices in compliance with WTO rules. This is a clear sign of discrimination by India said the Chinese embassy spokesperson JiRong in a statement. These banned apps had a large user base in India, this step will be a huge loss to China in becoming a Tech giant and that is the reason why China is expecting a relief. Despite, even if China proceed toward the WTO for consolation, there is no chance for any relief to be provided regarding this issue because of these three big reasons why the WTO stands in support of India’s decision:
- Non-existence of bilateral agreement-
There was no prior agreement made between India and China regarding mobile applications. Chinese companies established their network in India not because they signed an agreement but because India has free market access to all foreign traders. China took this golden opportunity and launched applications in India to acquire a big share in such a market these applications promoted their product and services by making heavy investments through advertisements. China acquired fame and wealth by flowing funds through these apps.
- Rules of WTO-
According to WHO laws, a country is allowed to act against any company that is becoming a threat to its sovereignty and national security. Furthermore, ensure to prohibit functioning of such company within its territory through any source. This is exactly what the government of India has done while referring to the IT Act, of 2000 against these Chinese apps. Authentically, India can file a counter case against China in the WTO for inevitable involvement in illegal and unfair trade practices. China established a route for selling its product indirectly through third countries — for example, Singapore or Hong Kong — with whom India already had preferential trade agreements. This act helped China to avoid paying higher duties while its products in India were sold at lower prices than its competition. Thus, because of this trade malpractice violated the interest of Indian companies.
- The Great Chinese Firewall
It is a set of legislative actions and tech enforcement by the People of the Republic of China to regulate the internet around its territory. It has extensively blocked foreign companies or respective websites from entering its market on various alleged excuses and also slow down the foreign traffic by limiting excess to foreign sources and blocking internet information tools for its benefit. China made a strategy to block even tech giants and news websites for establishing its market worldwide and become the only Tech Giant around.
Thus, India realized the importance of privacy and security of the Nation’s data. This ban on Chinese apps has brought to light various issues regarding privacy and security concerns. India is now being globally recognized in such a way that when it comes to national security there will be no compromise, whatever steps need to be taken irrespective of foreign relations, India will take actions against such misconduct to secure the Nation’s Integrity. Highlighting, Keeping the National Security must be the topmost priority of any country. Hence, from all these initiatives we can hope for a better future for our country by becoming more aware and self-reliant.
Author(s) Name: Purnima Singh