The Narendra Modi government on Monday night banned 59 Chinese mobile apps for engaging in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India”. The apps include TikTok, Shareit, Cam Scanner and Weibo — the Chinese equivalent of Twitter where Prime Minister Modi also has an account.
China’s state-run tabloid Global Times, in a tongue and cheek statement, reminded Modi of his Weibo account. In its report on India’s ban announcement, Global Times said the list of apps includes Weibo where Modi has a verified account and more than 240,000 followers.
Several people on Twitter also wondered if Modi will delete his Weibo account as well.
Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs, told HuffPost India that Modi creating a Weibo account is quite different from Chinese apps penetrating India. He made an account to reach out directly to the Chinese public and to shape its opinion toward India, Chaulia said, and getting Modi to close his account would bring little benefit to India except as a symbolic snub.
While it remains to be seen if Modi will delete his account or if there will be a retaliation from China, Chaulia said. If Beijing decides to shut down Modi’s account, it would invite retaliation from New Delhi.
“Chinese embassies and consulates across India have Twitter and Facebook accounts. India can also block access to websites carrying Chinese propaganda like Global Times, Xinhua and China Daily. It would just set off a pointless downward spiral,” he added.
Jabin Thomas Jacob, associate professor at the Department of International Relations and Governance Studies of Shiv Nadar University (SNU), also said the Prime Minister should not delete his Weibo account. He told HuffPost India that Modi is using a Chinese app in China to reach out to the Chinese people and the Chinese authorities have no justification for suspending his account.
“India’s banning of Chinese apps is based on its own national interests and the relevant laws just as China’s banning of foreign apps is justified on the basis of its national interests,” he said. “The only difference is that India’s ban is also based on security flaws and loopholes in Chinese apps that compromise the privacy and data security of Indian citizens while the Chinese ban is aimed at controlling information and reducing freedom of expression at home.”
Modi government’s decision to ban Chinese app comes amid escalating tensions between India and China in Ladakh. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent face-off at Galwan Valley in Ladakh on 15 June and Indian Army has claimed there were casualties on the Chinese side as well.
Indian embassy officials in China recently said Modi’s speech to chief ministers on 18 June as well as the comments by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Ladakh were deleted from Weibo and WeChat.