Indian army hires Mandarin experts

The Indian Army is recruiting Chinese language experts and encouraging soldiers to learn military terms in Chinese so as to improve communication with their Chinese counterparts.

On July 10, the army issued a recruitment notice for Chinese language experts in the Territorial Army. Five civilian candidates and one former service officer will be appointed as experts.

The army has obtained requisite approvals to induct Chinese-speaking personnel into the Territorial Army, said an army official who did not want to be identified.

With the Indian Army recalibrating its strategic outlook on the northern borders, the army "has upscaled its Chinese language training" and has enhanced its overall synergy by embedding a number of Chinese linguists in the army, the official said.

"Earlier, on many occasions, the Indian Army faced difficulties communicating with the People's Liberation Army at senior level talks due to the dearth of Chinese language experts, because we are not familiar with Mandarin," former Indian Army chief Shankar Roy Chowdhury said. "It is not possible to impart training among the soldiers (en masse), so it is better to hire language experts from Indian universities."

Communication with Chinese counterparts has become important for the Indian Army following the 2020 border tensions, so it has taken steps to improve its Chinese language abilities, analysts said.

A variety of Chinese language courses are being held in language schools at the army's northern, eastern and central commands to make them more adept in speaking Mandarin.

With improved Mandarin speaking abilities, "the Indian Army personnel will be better empowered to convey their points in a much more cogent manner", another army official said.

More Mandarin speaking experts are required for better exchange of viewpoints and to understand the PLA's activities during exchanges such as the Corps Commander level talks, flag meetings, joint exercises and border personnel meetings, said an official statement from the Indian Army.

The army has already signed memorandums of understanding with Rashtriya Raksha University, Central University of Gujarat and Shiv Nadar University for more Mandarin courses.

Indian Army spokesperson colonel Sudhir Chamoli said the army is "also seeking personnel who are proficient in other foreign languages as well".

The army is also using artificial intelligence solutions to help translate various scripts or literature from Chinese.

"We have to be adept in communication to ensure that no lack of communication takes place due to the language barrier. Both neighbors have to understand each other's expectations, which can't happen without understanding each other's language," said Salman Khurshid, former junior external affairs minister of India.

Proficiency level testing of trained soldiers is being conducted through civilian institutes like the Langma School of Languages in New Delhi to assess competency as per international standards.

Sino-Indian relations have been complicated since the border standoff in April 2020. Since then, the two sides have held 15 rounds of military and diplomatic level talks to bring bilateral relations back on track.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.