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India banned another set of 118 apps from China’s technology giants, including Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s wildly popular game PUBG Mobile Lite, the country’s search engine leader Baidu Inc., and online payments giant Ant Group Co.’s platform Alipay, as tensions escalated on the nations’ disputed border.
The apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India” as well as “security and public order,” the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement Wednesday. “This move will safeguard the interests” of Indian mobile and internet users, it said.
India and China relations have entered a critical new phase following fresh conflict along their disputed Himalayan border, after multiple rounds of high-level military talks failed to end the months-long standoff. The defense ministry in New Delhi said on Monday its soldiers were able to stop a push by Chinese troops to claim more ground late Saturday in violation of existing agreements.
The banned versions of PUBG included PUBG Mobile Lite, a leaner version of the app suited to inexpensive smartphones, as well as PUBG Mobile Nordic Map: Livik, a newer game played on a Nordic terrain.
Over June and July, India had banned more than 100 Chinese apps including TikTok, the much-downloaded short video app from ByteDance Inc., and Alibaba Group Holding’s mobile browser, UC Browser. The move followed mid-June border skirmishes, which killed 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops.
PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, popularly known as PUBG, had seen its user numbers rocket in India as the coronavirus-related lockdowns boosted gaming. In the Hunger Games-style competition, 100 players face off with automatic weapons until there is only one left standing. Tencent introduced a stripped down mobile version of the death match, making it among the most popular smartphone games in the world, amassing fans in countries including the U.S. and Russia.
India accounts for over a quarter of PUBG Mobile’s lifetime installs though revenues from the country are still minuscule, according to data from research firm Sensor Tower.
India has received complaints about the apps “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” the government said in its statement.