The Indian government on Wednesday blocked 118 Chinese apps, including PUBG MOBILE, a wildly popular game in India, amid tensions with China over fresh provocation in Ladakh.
The move was in the interest of India's sovereignty and integrity, defence and security, the Indian government said in a statement, reports NDTV.
Tencent Holdings Ltd's videogame PUBG Mobile ranks among the world's top five smartphone games with over 734 million downloads. There are close to 50 million active PUBG players in India, according to reports. The game clocks in some 13 million daily users.
According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the mobile game has been banned along with the other Apps under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, on grounds that "they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order".
"This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace," the statement said, adding that the move would safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users.
Last year, in a measure of PUBG's huge popularity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during an event on exam stress, had remarked to a mother complaining about her teen: "Yeh PUBG-wala hai kya (Is he a PUBG player?)".
In June, the government banned 59 mobile apps, including Bytedance's TikTok, Alibaba's UC Browser and Tencent's WeChat, also citing security concerns.
Explaining its latest move, the ministry said it had received many complaints about the misuse of some mobile apps on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user data to servers outside India.
"The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence 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," said the statement.
The home ministry's cybercrime centre had also recommended blocking these "malicious apps", the government said.
The statement referred to bipartisan concerns flagged by various public representatives in parliament and outside. It said there had been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps "that harm India's sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens".
The other apps blocked today include games, online payment services, dating sites and even software to edit selfies.
The move comes a day after the government accused Chinese troops of provocative action again in the South Bank of Ladakh's Pangong Lake. Chinese troops had made a similar attempt on August 31 but Indian soldiers were able to foil them both times, said the government.
There have been a series of clashes and showdowns in Ladakh with China in recent weeks. In June, 20 soldiers died for the country in a clash at Galwan Valley. China also suffered casualties.
The PUBG MOBILE India series for 2020 had a total prize pool of above ₹ 55 lakh and with the player base and international investment, it was projected to grow.