BEIJING: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today asked Indians and Chinese to learn each other’s languages as it will help them overcome the communication barriers, which could further strengthen relations between the two neighbours.
Ms Swaraj, who is on a four-day visit, made the remarks during a programme, titled ‘Contribution of Hindi in India-China Friendship’, organised by the Indian Embassy.
“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,” Ms Swaraj said.
“If there is an interpreter sitting between two friends, he may be able to translate the words but not the feelings with which I say something. So, it is essential that we learn a language, and understand it,” she said, a day after it was announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping would hold an informal summit from April 27 to 28 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
“I want to say that the way India and China’s relation are strengthening, trade is increasing, we are working together on international forums, it has become increasingly important that you learn Hindi and we learn Chinese. So that when Indians visit China they don’t face difficulty, and when Chinese visit India, you don’t require an interpreter,” Ms Swaraj said.
Ms Swaraj said during her meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday, 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.
The minister invoked the box-office success of Bollywood hits like “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 their experiences of watching such films.
Noting that during the programme, a Chinese student learning Hindi had expressed that her dream was to visit India, Ms 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.
“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,” she said.
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 as a subject in about 16 universities across China, said Prof Jiang Jingkui, the Head of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Peking University in Beijing.
Prof Jiang, who was a guest speaker at today’s event attended by Ms Swaraj, is an ardent lover of Hindi and has previously coined a new slogan “Chindustan” (China-Hindustan) to highlight the need for friendship between the two nations.
Hindi can be the dictionary for Chinese students aspiring to work in India, he said. “Chinese students are getting lot of jobs in India at present,” Prof Jiang who teaches Hindi at the prestigious Peking University told PTI.
He said the fact that Hindi is being taught in several Chinese universities shows its increasing popularity in the country.
The Chinese universities are also teaching Tamil, Urdu and Bengali languages. Also plans are afoot to teach Assamese and Punjabi, he said.
Currently Tamil and Bengali are taught at three universities and Urdu at 10, he said.
Several students from different universities spoke in Hindi during the event, expressing their impressions, experiences about the language and its importance in the Indian-China relations.
Besides the job opportunities in Chinese firms, a number of Chinese students work for the official media including China Radio International (CRI), which broadcasts in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali and Urdu.