NEW DELHI: China’s assertion that India’s ban on Chinese mobile applications is “selective and discriminatory” is completely misplaced and New Delhi has a long list of Beijing’s discriminations with countries, including India, related to trade and investments, officials aware of the matter said.

India also has a long list of Beijing’s restrictive trade and investment practices such as the imposition of internet censorship through ‘Great firewall’, restrictions on long-term visa and non-tariff barriers on investments, two officials working in separate ministries, who did not want to be named, said.

News agency Press Trust of India on Thursday reported the Indian Newspaper Society has slammed China for restricting access to Indian newspapers and media websites and urged the government to expeditiously take steps to ban access to Chinese media in the country.

Chinese state-controlled Global Times on Thursday tweeted quoting China’s commerce ministry spokesperson Gao Feng as saying: “To date, China has not adopted any restrictive or discriminatory measures targeting #India’s products and services.”

The officials brushed aside Beijing’s contentions and its veiled threat to drag India to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the decision on Monday to ban 59, mostly Chinese, mobile applications such as TikTok, citing concerns that these are “prejudicial to sovereignty of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

One of the officials cited above, who is also the government’s legal expert on the strategic matters, said, “Beijing has no basis to challenge New Delhi’s June 29 decision [to ban the applications]. Is there any agreement on this matter with China? No. Not to my knowledge. India can defend [it] easily under the clause of national security interest and sovereignty of the country.”

“Therefore, the official Chinese reaction on June 30 was subdued and did not mention any bilateral or multilateral [WTO] agreement,” he added.

Tensions between India and China escalated after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said the Indian government has the responsibility to protect legitimate rights and interests of international investors in India, including Chinese businesses, in accordance with market principles. “Practical cooperation between China and India is mutually beneficial. Deliberate interference in such cooperation will not serve the interests of the Indian side.”

TS Vishwanath, the principal advisor at law firm APJ-SLG Law offices, said, “This decision [on banning the applications has been] taken based on national security concerns. “ He said India can take any action to protect its national security interest as per the WTO agreement.

The second official cited above, who works in an economic ministry, said China is indulging in illegal and unfair practices such as routing its goods through third countries with which India has preferential trade arrangements (PTAs) to avoid paying higher duty. China is dumping cheaper products in India to harm Indian industries, the official added.

“The government is aware and agencies have been told to take action against such violations,” the official said. HT reported it on July 1.

Data suggests a significant indirect inflow of Chinese goods and investments through countries with which India has free trade agreements (FTAs), PTAs, or other bilateral commercial arrangements. It shows that total foreign direct investment (FDI) from China is minuscule, but many Indian firms have received Chinese investments. Similarly, imports from China have registered a minor decline recently, but at the same time imports from Hong Kong and Singapore have surged, officials said.

The latest official data shows FDI from China between April 2000 and March 2020 was $2.378.71 billion, which is 0.51% of the total such inflow into the country over the two decades.

According to the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, while India’s trade deficit with China narrowed by $6.05 billion to $51.25 billion in 2019, the gap with Hong Kong widened sharply by $5.8 billion in 2019, nullifying almost all the gains.