As some of the banned Chinese apps, including TikTok, will approach the Centre claiming they are compliant with Indian regulations, one hopes there is no ambiguity around the government’s decision to ban the 59 Chinese apps. If the appeal is a matter of formality, it’s fine. But there should be no rollback of the ban decision.
India is on sound legal ground here in citing national security to ban the apps. They pose a clear security risk at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are facing off at the LAC. Therefore, it cannot be business as usual. National security has to take precedence, apart from the need to retaliate against Chinese intrusions and killing of Indian soldiers. Moreover Indian startups are already coming up with new apps, which can fulfil the demand met by the banned apps as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to be “vocal for local”. They should be given a chance to survive and thrive.
Not surprisingly, Beijing has reacted sharply and asked New Delhi to uphold the legitimate rights of ‘international investors’. Further, it has called the ban discriminatory and told New Delhi to bear in mind the overall interests of bilateral ties. This is laughable. Did it have bilateral ties in mind when it launched the incursions and attacks on Indian soldiers? Moreover, how respectful is Beijing of the rights of international investors? Does it not impose all sorts of barriers for Indian firms wishing to access the Chinese market? The main reason Chinese internet platforms have become so successful – and acquired the funds to invade foreign markets – is that they are heavily protected by the great Chinese firewall, preventing foreign internet companies from breaking into the Chinese market.
If it doesn’t want to hand Beijing a walkover New Delhi, therefore, shouldn’t dither on the bans; instead, it should extend them to Chinese news apps and terminate Chinese investments in local news outlets. Indian news sites cannot be accessed in China even through VPNs; moreover China, being a totalitarian country, doesn’t distinguish between news and propaganda and will turn news sites into influence operations. For far too long China has been allowed to get away with access to foreign markets, including in strategic areas, without adhering to reciprocity. India must now coordinate with other countries like the US, Australia and Taiwan, and end China’s favourable run. Reciprocity has to be the bottomline.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.