FPJ Edit: A symbolic ban signifying nothing

The ban on 59 Chinese mobile applications, including popular Tik Tok and WeChat, predictably elicited an angry response from China. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday that China was ‘strongly concerned at the ban’ and was verifying the situation. He maintained that China expected its companies to abide by international and local laws, while India had obligations to uphold the legal rights of foreign businesses. On Monday, the Information Technology Ministry had banned 59 Chinese apps on the ground that these were engaged in activities prejudicial to the security of State and public order. The most popular among the banned apps was Tik Tok, the short video platform, while others had insignificant following. The American apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook virtually monopolise the Indian market. However, popularity of the apps was not the point. The Indian government wanted to make a point, to send out a message about how angry it was at the Chinese perfidy at the border. Beyond such symbolism the ban may achieve little else. Though India was the biggest market for Tik-Tok outside China, it is unlikely that it cannot take the loss of a revenue stream in its stride. For sure, by law all Chinese businesses are bound to share with the government all information it may seek regarding their domestic and foreign operations, banning a handful of mobile apps is a mere pinprick which in no way brings us closer to a peaceful resolution of the border standoff. We will need to do more than such showy bans to persuade Beijing that its expansionist policy would make it a pariah in world forums. India was too big to be browbeaten by flexing of the military muscle at the disputed border. As for the ban, unless the objective of the IT Ministry was to clear the way for the domestic telecom companies to fill the resulting vacuum, it constitutes a small footnote in the much bigger struggle required to force China on the path of peaceful coexistence.

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