Chineses apps banned, but will PM-Cares Fund now return donations made by Chinese companies?
Not only Indian companies with Chinese funding made huge donations to the PM CARES fund, the likes of TikTok and Xiaomi themselves made donations to the fund. Now that their apps are to be banned, should the PMO return the donations made by them as well?
As tensions between India and China continue to linger along the line of actual control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, Indian government on Monday banned 59 Chinese mobile apps including TikTok, UC Browser and Cam Scanner among others. A statement from the government said that the apps are 'engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order'.
In the past there have been questions regarding how secure some of the Chinese apps are in terms of protecting personal data and privacy. But this move of banning apps is being seen by a part of media as an "answer to China" and a "stealth attack" delivered with "suddenness and unprecedented unpredictibility". But even without rhetoric, the move is being largely seen as an exercise of coercive diplomacy and a roundabout economic sanction.
Field Marshal Rear Admiral Arnab Goswami describing the "Surgical strike" against China.???????? pic.twitter.com/5V9F0W4guc— R Bhaduri (@r_bhaduri) June 29, 2020
Several commentators have questioned whether this is meant to be a response to to Galwan Faceoff and the loss of 20 Indian soldiers on June 15. While some others believed that this move was taken to prevent possible data theft and protect national security. Questions were also raised about 18 of India's 30 'Unicorns', in which Chinese companies own majority stakes. The list includes Ola, Oyo, Byju's, PayTM, Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato and others as well.
The Chinese own majority stakes in 18 out of India's 30 Unicorns. Mr Modi/BJP allowed it. No more nationalist dramebaazi; will the govt ban:— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) June 30, 2020
Meanwhile another controversy has erupted regarding PM CARES Fund, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project for COVID-19 relief. According to reports, the PM CARES Fund accepted multiple donations from Chinese companies.
Though the PM CARES Fund is yet to disclose a list of all donations received, a study of media reports and company statements shows that at least five Chinese companies said that they would or have donated to the PM CARES Fund.
TikTok, which is among the banned apps, have said have donated Rs 30 crore to the PM CARES Fund. Chinese networking and telecom giant Huawei has also pledged Rs 7 crore to the fund.
Xiaomi, whose Mi Community and video calling apps were banned, also said that it had donated Rs 10 crore to the PM CARES Fund and various CM relief funds across the country.
Two other Chinese mobile phone brands (Oppo and OnePlus), which have the same parent company, also donated Rs 1 crore each to PM-CARES.
Indian companies with Chinese funding like PayTM, Ola and Oyo have said have donated huge amounts to the fund.
While the Indian government has tightened FDI restrictions over the last few months to keep a closer watch on Chinese investments in India, it has not stopped Chinese companies or companies from Chinese funding to stop donating to its relief funds.
However, we must keep in mind that most of the pledge announcements were made in April 2020, a few weeks before the signs of military tension between China and India entered the public domain and a boycott call for Chinese products grew stronger in India.
So it is really upon the Prime Minister’s Office to decide whether this money should be returned to the Chinese companies in question, now that Chinese-made apps are to be officially banned. So if India were to go town against Chinese products, it would definitely help if the proverbial charity begins at home.