Pointing out that Beijing continues to block New Delhi’s attempts to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of RSS, on Monday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban Chinese companies in the country to prevent “economic gain of any nation or individual that directly or tacitly supports such terrorists”.
Azhar is the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad, which carried out last week’s terror attack in Pulwama.
The SJM specifically called for banning Chinese telecom companies, 5G equipment, and social media apps such as TikTok and Helo, as alleged child pornography and “anti-national activities” are carried on on these platforms.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the SJM stated, “It is widely known that the Chinese government continues to block our nation’s attempts to designate the chief architect of these terror attacks as a ‘global terrorist’. At such a time, we believe it is imperative that the government create similar hurdles for Chinese companies using India for their economic gain.”
Ashwani Mahajan, SJM’s national co-convener who wrote the letter, told The Indian Express that SJM discussed Chinese technology products with Union minister S S Ahluwalia about two months ago. He said Ahluwalia agreed with points he had raised and said the government has begun work on this. “But nothing has happened so far,” Mahajan said. “They (Chinese tech firms) create new apps every day. The government has to frame new rules. We are hopeful that the government will listen to our advice.”
The letter mentioned that the past two years have seen a large growth of Chinese social media and e-commerce companies in India, many of which have “various security risks”.
A spokesperson of Bytedance, the Chinese firm that owns short-video and social media platforms TikTok and Helo, told The Indian Express “TikTok and Helo are committed to respecting local laws and regulations as well as maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment for our users in India. There is no basis for the incorrect claims raised by certain groups recently. We treat safety and security of our user data very seriously.”
In its letter, the SJM used examples of a call by the Defence Ministry in 2017 to armed forces to uninstall more than 40 Chinese applications and probe Chinese UC Browser for sharing location of Indian users to Chinese servers and Chinese propaganda content to Indian users during the Doklam crisis.
A source from Bytedance said that the company’s products that are not operating in China, such as Tik Tok and Helo, do not have any data stored in or routed back to China. Instead, the company works with third-party service providers to store data wherever the company has local offices, such as Singapore and the US, the source said.
Welcoming the move, an executive at a popular Indian social media company said this could “ensure nations that have an adversarial stance towards India aren’t allowed to make economic gain from the data of Indian citizens”.