Pakistanis employed with CPEC project to learn Mandarin, Senate approves motion

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New Delhi | Updated: February 22, 2018 7:26:49 PM

"In view of the growing collaboration between Pakistan and China under the CPEC, courses of the Official Chinese Language should be launched for all current and prospective Pakistani CPEC human resource in order to overcome any costly communication barriers."

 The Pakistan Senate on Monday declared 'Mandarin' as one of the official languages of Pakistan. (Reuters)
The Pakistan Senate on Monday cleared a motion to teach ‘Mandarin’ to Pakistanis who work or will work for the Chinese project CPEC in future. (Reuters)

The Pakistan Senate on Monday cleared a motion to teach the Chinese official language ‘Mandarin’ to Pakistanis who work for the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the future. The decision was taken at the senate’s concluding session of the mother languages symposium held in Islamabad. As per the Pakistani media, this was done to further strengthen the relations between Pakistan and China. Including Mandarin as one of its languages is being seen as Pakistan’s attempt to ensure that people connected with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor can communicate easily and also avoid communication errors that could prove costly.

News agency ANI, citing a report by Pakistani media outlet Abb Tak, had earlier reported that Mandarin had been declared as an official language. However, this wasn’t the case. “This House recommends that, in view of the growing collaboration between Pakistan and China under the CPEC, courses of the Official Chinese Language should be launched for all current and prospective Pakistani CPEC human resource in order to overcome any costly communication barriers,” the motion read.

Pakistan’s constitution, also known as the 1973 Constitution, recognises Urdu as Pakistan’s only national language and also promises to make it the official language of the state. Article 251 under the Constitution says “arrangements shall be made for [Urdu] being used for official and other purposes within [next] fifteen years”. While one subclause permits the use of English language until those arrangements are made; another allows provinces to promote “provincial languages” alongside Urdu.”

Reacting to the Senate’s move, former Pakistan Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani observed on Twitter how in a short span of 70 years, Pakistan had ignored native languages and instead chosen to promote four languages that were not the mother tongue of many people in the country – English, Urdu, Arabic, and now Chinese.

The Pakistani media, by and large, took a positive stand on the move. Pakistani newspaper The Dawn noted that Pakistanis were more interested in learning a new language than ever and that the country sees this as an opportunity. Learning Mandarin, it reported, would in a way create job opportunities in both China and Pakistan. The newspaper also quoted Marvi Memon, a Pakistani government’s official as rejecting the contention that the Chinese language could pose a threat to the languages of Pakistan.

Notably, the move comes a month after Pakistan’s central bank started accepting Chinese currency, Yuan, for bilateral trade with China. The decision was taken a day after US President Donald Trump stopped all aid to Pakistan. The move was aimed at enabling payment for imports from China in Yuan and also help Chinese companies to invest in CPEC projects in Pakistan.

The multi-billion dollar CPEC or the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, once completed will give China access to waterways which is about 40 percent of the world’s oil passes. Once the project is completed it will connect Gwadar in the southwestern coast of Balochistan, Pakistan to Xinjiang region in China.

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