Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday called India’s decision to ban mobile applications with Chinese links a “digital strike” on Beijing, PTI reported. “We banned Chinese apps to protect data of countrymen, it was a digital strike,” Prasad said at a virtual Bharatiya Janata Party rally in West Bengal.

On June 29, India banned 59 apps, including TikTok, WeChat and Cam Scanner, alleging that they presented a security threat to the country. The move came two weeks after 20 Indian soldiers were killed and 76 wounded in a clash with their Chinese counterparts in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control.

“Now you can hear about only two ‘Cs’ – Coronavirus and China,” Prasad said. “We believe in peace and solve problems through discussion, but if somebody casts an evil eye on India, we will give a befitting reply.”

Prasad referred to the Balakot airstrikes in February last year, and the Uri surgical strike carried out by the Indian Army across the Line of Control on September 29, 2016. “You all must remember how we had retaliated after Uri and Pulwama,” he said. “When our PM [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] is saying that the sacrifice of our jawans won’t go in vain, it has a meaning. Our government has the will to deliver.”

The Indian Air Force conducted the Balakot airstrikes in retaliation after at least 40 soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed in an attack in Pulwama on February 14. The surgical strike, as the operation was termed, was a response to the terrorist attack on an Army camp in Uri in Kashmir on September 18, 2016, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed.

The union minister claimed that the number of casualties on the Chinese side during the violent faceoff was much more than what India suffered. “You all must have noticed that they have not come out with any figure,” he said. “If our 20 jawans have sacrificed their lives, then the toll is double on the Chinese side.”

While India has confirmed that 20 of its soldiers were killed in the violence and 76 injured, China has not published its official number of casualties. Last month, Beijing had rebutted reports that suggested it had lost over 40 soldiers in the clash and called it “fake news”.

Shiv Sena questions Centre on ban

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena also called the ban “a digital strike” conducted in the interests of Indian internet users. However, the former BJP ally questioned why the apps were allowed to be operated for so many years in the first place, if they posed a threat to national security.

“If these apps were a threat to national security, how is it that these apps were functioning without any hurdles for so many years?” the party asked in its mouthpiece, Saamana. “If the opposition says the government neglected national security, then what will the Centre’s stand be?”

The party added that it took the government the sacrifices of 20 soldiers to realise Indian data was being illegally taken out of the country. “There is a need to break China economically, but that will not happen by banning its apps,” it added. “The issue is about trade and investment between the two countries.”