China’s WTO Threats Won’t Work, India Has Valid Defence Concerning National Security: Analysts
Against the backdrop of border tensions, India issued a fresh ban on 118 more Chinese apps, taking the total tally to 233. While China’s Commerce Ministry reacted to this, saying such actions violate the legal interests of investors, its spokesman also went on to note that India must “correct its mistakes”.
The Indian Ministry of Information and Technology (MeitY) announced a fourth round of bans on Chinese apps on 2 September, citing national security reasons.
Reacting to India’s stringent measure, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng said that New Delhi has “abused” national security by imposing discriminate restrictions on Chinese companies and such action violates World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Both India and China are signatories to a commitment to WTO policies stipulating that the countries should refrain from banning each other’s products from their respective nations.
Talking to Sputnik, Dr Prashant Mali, a cyber lawyer and policy expert from the Bombay High Court, however, explained that India has nothing to worry about concerning China’s threats because the country has rightly used Section 69 of the IT Act, 2000 – the country’s primary law regarding cybercrime and electronic commerce – to ban the Chinese apps.
“India has a valid defence of national security reasons and India being a sovereign country, has the right to act as per the law of its land. China cannot break its head at the WTO because it has already banned many apps, social media websites, and search engines with its own great fire wall. India just found it in parity”, Mali said.
Earlier this year, Chinese brands like Xiaomi and TikTok were reported to be tracking the location and incognito search history of their users in India using illegal methods such as SIM-tapping.
In June, Cyfirma, a Singapore-based cyber research firm claimed that amid the prevailing border tensions, India had witnessed a 300 percent jump in hack attacks allegedly carried out by China-backed hackers.
India’s MeitY in its latest statement revealed that it had received a multitude of complaints from various sources, including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps, of them stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user data in an unauthorised manner to servers located outside of the country.
Confident of India’s decision, Mali further stated that it wouldn’t be surprising if in the coming months more Chinese apps join TikTok, PUBG, and Baidu which are now banned in the country. India made up a major user base for these apps, with its over 333 million and 500 million internet and smartphone users respectively.
“China may play around with stopping the export of certain crucial physical supplies but to compensate for that India has the rest of the world to go to. I think this is all moving towards fencing off cyberspace from China, more bans are likely to come and China can see bans from other countries too”, Mali added
“Talking specifically about India, I feel the decision to ban apps has been right considering the possibilities that under the guise of apps, China may have been using these apps as cyberspace foot soldiers in its wider cyber warfare against India”, the expert noted.
China’s Global Times previously reported that India’s app-ban parade has been “very frustrating” for Chinese companies and investors.
In July, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said in a statement that it’s the responsibility of the Indian government to protect the legitimate rights and interests of international investors, including those from China.
Trade tensions between India and China gained momentum around five months ago. On 27 April, India claimed that Chinese personnel had entered the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley located in Ladakh.
A total of 20 Indian soldiers were killed in brutal hand-to-hand combat on 15 June, as Indian and Chinese troops accused each other of encroaching upon the territory along the loosely demarcated 4,057-km LAC that divides the two countries.
India and China recently entered the fifth month of the border conflict, with fresh physical altercations reported between troops near India’s Chushul Valley overnight on 29-30 August.
“The repeated onslaught on Chinese apps is an unequivocal signal that Chinese aggression on the Indo-Sino border will not be tolerated. While territorial integrity and sovereignty is unquestionably a legitimate concern rendering app bans permissible, it is the opacity and non-adherence to the defined protocols under the IT Act that has led to the furore”, Kazim Rizvi, founder of The Dialogue, a tech policy think tank told Sputnik.
The critical situation along the LAC has pushed the #BoycottMadeinChina momentum in India, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging the nation to “go vocal for local” in order to reduce India’s dependence on other countries, including China.
Since Modi’s statement, India has been rapidly taking steps to decrease China’s involvement in the overall growth of the country. Aside from banning Chinese apps, India has also imposed stays on multi-billion dollar projects with its neighbour.
While exploring tech trade partnerships with other nations India is also deliberating on restricting Chinese tech players like Huawei and ZTE from participating in its 5G trials, now postponed until at least 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Indian analysts have called on Indian developers and creators to take advantage of this powerful wave of nationalistic sentiment, and flood the market with domestically-made products.
“India-developed apps and products will not only replace the now banned Chinese services, but will also ensure stronger security, better user policies, and personal data protection compliances”, said Sonit Jain, CEO of Mumbai-based cyber security firm GajShield Infotech.
Following the border tensions, both India and China have been in diplomatic talks to de-escalate the months-long stress between the nuclear-powered neighbours.
Ji Rong, Chinese Embassy spokesman on Thursday reiterated the importance of smooth India-China trade ties.
“The relevant practices by the Indian government not only harm the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese investors and service providers, but also harm the interests of Indian consumers and the investment environment. We hope that India will work with China to maintain the hard-won cooperation and development situation, and return to the right path of win-win cooperation”, Rong said.