Indian Army to deploy Mandarin speakers for talks with PLA

Indian and Chinese national flags flutter side by side at the Raisina hills in New Delhi, India, in this file photo. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

To enhance communications with the Chinese military, the Indian Army is recruiting Mandarin language experts and encouraging language studies in its regional commands. 

The army issued on July 10 a notification to fill vacancies in the Territorial Army, or TA, for Mandarin language experts. Five civilian candidates and one ex-service officer will be appointed as officers. 

The army issued on July 10 a notification to fill vacancies in the Territorial Army, or TA, for Mandarin language experts. Five civilian candidates and one ex-service officer will be appointed as officers

“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 Mandarin language experts, because we are not familiar with Mandarin,” said former Indian Army chief General Shankar Roy Chowdhury. 

“It is not possible to impart training among the soldiers (en masse), so it is better to hire language experts from Indian universities,” he added.

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The army has obtained requisite approvals to induct Mandarin-trained personnel into the TA, according to an army official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Communications with their Chinese counterparts have become important for Indian Army officers after a 2020 border dispute and so the army has taken steps to improve its in-house Mandarin expertise, according to analysts.

With the recalibration of the Indian Army’s strategic outlook toward the northern borders, “the Indian Army has upscaled its Chinese language training and has synergistically enmeshed appropriate scaling of Chinese linguists within its overall strategy,” the official said. 

Various Mandarin language courses are being run at language schools at the army’s Northern, Eastern and Central commands to make them adept in Mandarin. 

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

With the aim of empowering junior and senior military commanders to engage with People’s Liberation Army personnel if the situation requires, a slew of measures has also been undertaken to improve in-house language capacities, the official said. 

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

The army has already signed memorandums of understanding with Rashtriya Raksha University, Central University of Gujarat and Shiv Nadar University for Mandarin courses. Tests are also being conducted at Langma School of Languages, New Delhi.

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“We are also seeking personnel who are proficient in other foreign languages as well,” said Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Sudhir Chamoli.

The Indian Army is also using artificial intelligence-based solutions for translating various scripts or literature from Mandarin. 

Proficiency-level testing of trained soldiers is being conducted through civilian institutes like Langma School of Languages to assess competence levels based on international standards. 

India and China should learn each other’s languages, to enhance communication and improve bilateral relations through increased people-to-people ties, India’s former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said in Beijing in April 2018, in an interactive session between Indian and Chinese students.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily