Here’s why stopping Mandarin learning in NEP is retrograde

August 14, 2020 11:37 AM

We have a fit case for downgrading the Chinese embassy at New Delhi and close the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata given Beijing willfully sabotaging of India-China relations.

Can we know and understand our number one enemy China without learning Mandarin?Can we know and understand our number one enemy China without learning Mandarin?

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

Chanakya had said, “If you make a snake drink milk, you increase its venom, not nectar”. Unfortunately, that is how India has been feeding milk to the Chinese snake opening its own floodgates in every sector without analyzing the character of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping. In the current scenario, another important maxim of Chanakya is where he had said, “If the enemy is more powerful then he can be defeated by behaving like him”. Ironically, we have responded to the Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh with timidity, not as advised by Chanakya – behave similar to the powerful enemy. But even in terms of language, are we behaving like powerful China by dropping Mandarin among foreign languages in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 or are we doing the opposite?

Many years after Chanakya came Sun Tzu who had said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Can we know and understand our number one enemy China without learning Mandarin? Can we learn something from China which is focusing also on select regional languages of India in addition to Hindi?

Recall media reports of 2017 revealing China was teaching South Indian languages like Tamil and Malayalam to the PLA for understanding intercepts of communication signals of the Indian armed forces deployed along the 4,065 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the international border since no coding or decoding of the cipher is necessary. China learned this from Pakistan’s experience in the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Notably, Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) teaches Indian languages including Tamil and Bengali wherein Chinese students undertaking advance courses also tour concerned Indian state for 6-12 months, described on the BFSU website: “to witness the rich culture of the place where their course originated”. Why the emphasis on Tamil Nadu and Bengal is not difficult to guess; China doesn’t spend money without purpose. The Chin-Pakistan nexus wants to de-stabilize South India while Bengal is part of Beijing’s plan to severe India’s northeast. Chinese students would be indulging in activities that further Chinese interests under cover of the learning process.

In this era of information warfare and psychological operations should we drop Mandarin? How will we monitor what is happening internally and externally in China aside from being lost in translation to decipher communication intercepts of the PLA? Are we destined to be perpetually resigned to China supporting and arming insurgencies in India or can we muster guts to exploit China’s fault-lines. Don’t we need Mandarin for the latter? Given the ongoing vitriolic and propaganda by Sun Weidong, the Chinese ambassador in India, there would be scores of Chinese nationals involved in espionage and subversive activities in India; not just Luo Sang aka Charlie Peng involved in the Rs 1000 crore ‘hawala’ racket and espionage – all of whom would be communication back home in Mandarin.

We have a fit case for downgrading the Chinese embassy at New Delhi and close the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata given Beijing willfully sabotaging of India-China relations. But certainly, the Confucius Institutes in India must be closed immediately as the US and Sweden have done; being indirectly established and partly funded by China’s Education Ministry their agenda is to promote Chinese interests even though the poison would be laced with sugar. Confucius Institutes are to promote Mandarin and Chinese culture. The Chinese culture has become irrelevant until CPC rules China because their aim is to destroy all other cultures. Mandarin is important but the 54 MoUs for inter-school cooperation between Indian and Chinese higher education institutions need to review.

Mandarin must be encouraged which aside from reasons discussed above will also ensure millions of ears and eyes on the ground essential for national security. Another reason for learning Mandarin is that total economic de-coupling with China is not going to happen anytime in the near future. The question remains who will teach Mandarin in India? If we do not have Indian nationals that can teach Mandarin, we should be looking for non-Chinese nationals. The best option would be to get teachers from Taiwan. In fact, NEP 2020 must also include Taiwanese as a foreign language to be taught in India. Advantage of learning Taiwanese is that one automatically acquires a working knowledge of Mandarin and Japanese. Given the India-Taiwan economic ties and cultural exchanges, the time is more than opportune for this.

(The author is veteran Lieutenant General. Views expressed are personal).

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