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China on Tuesday slammed the Indian ban on 59 Chinese mobile phone apps describing the move as possibly violative of World Trade Organisation rules, against the general practices of global trade and e-commerce and not conducive to consumer interests in India.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi warned that the ban would “affect not only the employment of local Indian workers who support these apps, but also the interests of Indian users and the employment and livelihoods of many creators and entrepreneurs."

“We expect India acknowledges the mutually beneficial nature of China-India economic and trade cooperation, and urge the Indian side to change its discriminatory practices, maintain the momentum of China-India economic and trade cooperation, treat all investments and service providers equally, and create an open, fair and just business environment, while bearing in mind the fundamental interests of both sides and the overall interests of bilateral relations," embassy spokeswoman Ji Rong said in a statement emailed to media organizations.

India on Monday banned 59 Chinese mobile apps in its strongest move yet targeting China in the online space since a border crisis erupted between the two countries this month.

The apps are “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defence of India, the security of state and public order", the ministry of information technology said in a statement, which came two weeks after 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in a violent clash on the India-China border in Ladakh. It also comes amid a move by Chinese troops – amassed in large numbers on the border -- to make further inroads into what is seen as India territory as well as disregard provisions of pacts signed in previous decades to ensure peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control border.

On 17 June, foreign minister S. Jaishankar in a telephone call to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi had warned of a “serious impact on the bilateral relationship" following the deaths of the 20 Indian army personnel.

With key countries across the world looking at moving their supply chains out of China in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, China would not like to see its trade ties with India worth an estimated $90 billion, mostly in China’s favour, affected, say analysts. TikTok has more than 200 million users in India and sees the country as one of its most important markets after China. The apps banned by the IT ministry on Monday included the popular scanning app CamScanner and Mi Video by smartphone maker Xiaomi.

Stating that the Chinese side “is seriously concerned with and firmly opposed to such action," Ji said India’s “measure, selectively and discriminatorily aims at certain Chinese apps on ambiguous and far-fetched grounds, runs against fair and transparent procedure requirements, abuses national security exceptions, and suspects of violating the WTO rules."

“It also goes against the general trend of international trade and E-commerce, and is not conducive to consumer interests and the market competition in India," she said. The apps have a large user base in India and have been working in strict accordance to India law, she said.

The apps “provide efficient and fast services for Indian consumers, creators and entrepreneurs," she said adding that the embargo against the apps would affect the livelihoods people in India.

“There are essentially four types of Chinese apps functioning in India — Economic Activity Apps, Service Oriented Apps, Vanity Apps and Strategic Apps," said Blaise Fernandes, Director, Gateway House think tank based in Mumbai.

“The Digital India story is globally tracked. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are part of the digital ‘Silk Route’ of China. The ban of the 59 Chinese Apps in India, will negatively impact the valuations of these apps and their respective promoters. Case in point - the upcoming IPO of TikTok - 30% user base comes from India. This will impact the TikTok valuations negatively," Fernandes said.

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