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How Modi made IT ministry burn the midnight oil to ban Chinese apps

The decision to ban Chinese origin apps including TikTok and WeChat, just ahead of the third round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders, saw the information and technology ministry work through the night to put together the extensive paperwork needed for the unprecedented measures.

As the blinds were pulled across the windows in IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s office to ensure the flurry of activity was not noticed, top officials worked on a specific brief from Prime Minister Narendra Modi: The ban must be announced before the talks began. The ministry brass, along with law officials, finished the paperwork just in time.

Conventional wisdom might have advocated a more cautious approach ahead of sensitive military talks at a time when Chinese forces enjoyed an advantage along the Line of Actual Control — it was not until late August that a surprise Indian manoeuvre altered the balance. But the PM was clear that China got an unequivocal message after the savage clash at Galwan.

The disengagement announced at Pangong Tso, so far proceeding smoothly, was the most difficult aspect of the de-escalation discussed at military and diplomatic levels over the past several months. The Chinese occupied the ridges amid reports of a helipad being built. The whole of government approach adopted in countering China across political, economic and diplomatic spheres was, sources said, a completely new experience for the Chinese.

The repeated signals that India would not step back even at the risk of a showdown with an economically and militarily stronger opponent effectively stalemated the situation. The frenzied Chinese reaction to the Indian action in taking the heights in south Pangong were a giveaway. The midnight statements and warnings of conflict indicated that their plans had gone very wrong.

The agreement thereafter — following a few unsuccessful Chinese bids to intrude — to halt all probing movements was a breakthrough of sorts. It stabilised the LAC in an uneasy truce that nevertheless held despite the close proximity of troops.

The developments hold a larger lesson as China’s leaders have had to accept that the plan to re-order the LAC permanently to their advantage was not going to happen. The occupation of the Finger 4-8 area was a key part of the scheme. For now, India will also be out of the area, but so will the PLA.

The test of Gogra-Hot Springs, Patrol Point 17 and Depsang lies ahead and will require more grit and patience. But the denouement of the faceoff was being keenly watched not just in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific but also within China. ToI

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