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Should learn each other's language: Sushma Swaraj in China

Says citizens from both countries can boost ties this way

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Should learn each other's language: Sushma Swaraj in China
Sushma Swaraj and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a news conference in Beijing, April 22, 2018
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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked Indians and Chinese on Monday to learn each other's languages to overcome communication barriers, a move could further strengthen relations between the two neighbours.

Swaraj, who is on a four-day visit to China, made the remarks during a programme, titled 'Contribution of Hindi in India-China Friendship', organised by the Indian Embassy. The minister invoked "Dangal", "Secret Superstar" and "Hindi Medium" to stress that Hindi films are gaining popularity in China, but said an understanding of the language instead of subtitles could improve the experience of watching such films.

"When two friends sit together, what do they want? They want to talk their hearts out to each other, share what they feel. And for that we need a language. I should be able to understand Chinese when you speak, and you should be able to understand Hindi when I talk," Swaraj said, adding that an interpreter sitting between two friends may not be able to convey the feelings.

Swaraj said, during her meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, she had told him that people are the biggest strength for any Foreign Minister, and when people of two countries love each other, it only strengthens the governments.

"And this, your love for Hindi. You may not be aware that two foreign ministers can't strengthen the relations between Indian and China as much as these students learning Hindi can. You (students) all are doing great service (to the two countries)," she said. Noting that during the programme, a Chinese student learning Hindi had expressed that her dream was to visit India, Swaraj instructed the Ambassador to make arrangements for a visit of such students to India "I want to tell her, that your dream would come true right here, right now. I am telling our Ambassador here to send a delegation of 25 Hindi students from here on India visit.

The External Affairs Ministry currently has 76 Chinese-speaking officers. This is the fifth largest group after Arabic (100), Russian (94), French (86) and Spanish (81). The number falls short of India's global profile. There is also a shortage of translators from a foreign language like English into Hindi and the other way round. Often, the Lok Sabha secretariat has to lend their interpreters. The problem becomes acuter when the Lok Sabha secretariat cannot lend interpreters when a foreign visit falls during a Parliament session.

In contrast, interest in Hindi and some other Indian languages such as Tamil and Bengali has been increasing in China in recent years as Chinese investments are growing in various states of India. Currently, around 400 students learn Hindi in about 16 universities across China, said Prof Jiang Jingkui, the Head of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Peking University in Beijing. The Chinese universities are also teaching Tamil, Urdu and Bengali languages. Also, plans are afoot to teach Assamese and Punjabi, he said.

"We will entertain you there and gift you Indian traditional clothes - saree for girls and kurta pyjama for boys. I entrust our Ambassador here with the responsibility of sending a delegation of students learning Hindi here," Swaraj said.

She also called on Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan to discuss ways to strengthen ties. She also met her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and discussed a host of bilateral issues and ways to step up the pace of high-level interactions to improve the relationship.

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