• The Star Staff

India bans 118 Chinese apps as Indian soldier is killed on disputed border

By Sameer Yasir and Hari Kumar

India banned more Chinese phone apps on Wednesday as tensions continue to escalate along its disputed border with China, with one Indian soldier reportedly killed earlier this week by a Chinese land mine.

The Indian government has blocked Chinese apps from its huge domestic market as a way to strike back against China, and the new measures will prevent Indians from gaining easy access to 118 Chinese apps, including the popular video game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which has over 50 million players in India.

Some of the banned Chinese apps, including Baidu, Alipay and some versions of the messaging app WeChat, are operated by the largest Chinese internet companies, like Tencent and Ant Financial. Many of these companies see India as an avenue of growth.

“This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” said a statement issued Wednesday by India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

China and India have been locked in a bitter border dispute for months — though the roots of the conflict go back decades — and tensions sharply rose in June, after Chinese forces beat to death 20 Indian soldiers in brawl.

Both countries have pushed thousands of reinforcements toward the frontier, which winds 2,100 miles through the Himalayas and other mountain ranges. The troops are supported with tanks, artillery, helicopters and fighter jets.

After the clashes in June, which involved hundreds of soldiers battling each other with rocks, sticks, clubs and bare fists, India banned 59 mobile apps including TikTok, ShareIt and Tencent’s WeChat, citing security concerns.

At the same time, a wave of anti-China sentiment swept across India, with Indians taking to the streets in some places and crushing Chinese-made televisions, plastic tricycles and other products to show their anger.

On Wednesday, the Indian government extended the number of banned apps to include PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds — known as PUBG — and other gaming apps like Rise of Kingdoms and Zakzak. An app that reads business cards was also banned.

The government said it had received complaints that Indian users’ personal data had been stolen.

The government did not link the ban to the recent killing of an Indian soldier along the border. While the death has been widely reported in Indian news media, the government has provided no details of what happened, or even confirmed that it lost a soldier.

According to some military officers, the soldier was a member of a secretive force of exiled Tibetans in India who are deployed for high-altitude warfare.

Ajai Shukla, a retired Indian army colonel and defense analyst, wrote on his blog that on Tuesday, an Indian army officer handed over the soldier’s body to his wife, telling her the circumstances of his death had to remain secret.

It’s not clear if the soldier’s death, attributed in news reports to a land mine, is connected to a standoff that took place earlier this week on the shores of Pangong Lake along the border, which is known as the Line of Actual Control. Troops from both sides yelled at each other and surged to within a yard or two of each other before commanding officers pulled them apart.

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