The Government’s decision to block 59 ‘Chinese’ applications in India has prompted an assorted set of responses. The ban comes on the heels of the continued build up of Indian and Chinese Forces in Ladakh. The direct consequences of the ban on apps as a response to the threat to territorial integrity notwithstanding, it prompts the question of sovereignty in cyberspace or internet sovereignty. This question of “cyberspace sovereignty should be considered in the context of The “great firewall of China” which limits access to foreign websites and mobile apps, and closely regulates foreign players wishing to enter the domestic market in China. This could very well be the future of the Internet.
This is not a new idea. Many have theorised that the increasing use of the Internet as a virtual space whose regulation and control will be taken up by States with their rise in importance both in economic and military terms. As we move into the middle of the 21st century, No State wishing to preserve its existence would allow unfettered access to its internet by foreign agents.
There is language in the Press Information Bureau (PIB) release announcing the ban of 59 apps that is interesting when one thinks about “cyberspace sovereignty”:
“This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.”
It should be recalled that multiple concerns have arisen over the popularity of Chinese Apps, especially Tik Tok, and their privacy standards in the West as well. However, India has become the first nation to actually act on such concerns. It seems (more) likely now that more actions like this will commence in Western Nations opposed to China. A “counter- firewall” against Chinese influence in the ‘Open Internet” perhaps. Somewhat fantastical, but still within the realm of possibilities.
India, as the world’s largest “open internet market” could very well be on its way to asserting its sovereignty in even more ways in the future. The Indian impact on the internet cannot be neglected; T-Series is the most subscribed channel on YouTube, two other channels from India have spots in the Top 10 most subscribed channels on YouTube. India has the largest Facebook user base, and much more.
The suggestion is not that India enact a “great firewall” level of internet censorship. But it seems inevitable that we prohibit the use of more applications/websites from countries that do not hold us in good stead. Virtual Sovereignty will inevitably be used by the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary in the Future.
May the virtual wars commence!
 One can view the banning of Huawei from this context,but that is related to any association with the company, but arguably, in the broader context, it will be related to this. India’s ban is oriented towards the use of apps and not association with a specific company. Therefore the nature of the action itself is different.
Special Credits to Aishwarya Ajayan for her editing.