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International relations

India bans Tencent's PUBG Mobile game in latest app crackdown

Nearly 120 mostly Chinese software titles shut out amid Himalayan border tensions

PUBG Mobile, a popular online game, has been targeted in India's latest crackdown on mostly Chinese apps.   © Getty Images

NEW DELHI -- India on Wednesday banned 118 mostly Chinese apps, including Tencent's popular game PUBG Mobile, saying they were "prejudicial" to its sovereignty, integrity and defense. 

The ban came as fresh tensions flared between the two nuclear-armed countries along their disputed Himalayan border, with each side accusing the other of "provocative" actions over the past week.

In announcing the ban, New Delhi said the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology received complaints about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms "for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India."

"The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures," it said.

The statement said the decision to block the apps is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.

Besides PUBG, which stands for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, the latest apps banned include AppLock, Alipay, WeChat Work and Baidu.

India was the top market for PUBG Mobile, generating about 175 million installs to date, or 24% of the game's total downloads, according to a July 2 report by Sensor Tower, an app market intelligence company.

India in June had banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including ByteDance's video-sharing app TikTok and Alibaba's UC Browser.

Wednesday's move comes two days after India and China accused each other's troops of provocative movements along the Line of Actual Control, or LAC -- which serves as the de facto border between the two countries in the absence of a mutually agreed boundary -- on Saturday night into Sunday.

On Tuesday, India accused Chinese troops of another provocative action on Monday even as military officials from both sides held discussions to de-escalate the situation.

"Due to the timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo," India's External Affairs Ministry said.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi denied Chinese troops were at fault, accusing Indian troops of "illegally" crossing the LAC at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake in the western sector of China-India border and conducting "flagrant provocations."

The new border tensions follow the June 15 Galwan Valley clash in eastern Ladakh, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unspecified number of Chinese casualties in the first fatal incident along their border in over four decades. Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks held to disengage from the monthslong standoff have so far made little progress.

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