Focus On Learning Mandarin Language Intensifies in India’s New Look Border Management Strategies Along the LAC

The oft-used phrase “language is a powerful weapon,” has been interpreted in diverse ways to suit particular contexts and time. Apart from being an effective tool of communication...

The oft-used phrase “language is a powerful weapon,” has been interpreted in diverse ways to suit particular contexts and time. Apart from being an effective tool of communication in general, its utility has gained prominence in the art of border management with the Indian government pushing for trainings in learning the basics of languages spoken along our international borders. The focus though has been mostly along the India-China border where the need to understand Mandarin, the language spoken by the Chinese soldiers on the other side has been accorded topmost priority.

Unlike the other international boundaries, like the 6,323 km border along Pakistan or the 4096.7 km with Bangladesh 1,770 km with Nepal, 699 km with Bhutan and 1,643 km with Myanmar, where border guards on both sides, are familiar with languages spoken on both sides of the border, besides frequent use of Hindi and English, the India-China border is strikingly different with Mandarin Chinese being the only language of conversation.

Of late border management strategies along the India-China border has been topmost of the government’s agenda, especially after increasing aggression by the Chinese resulting in the encounter at Galwan on June 15, 2020. Thus, of all the other security related drills which have been mapped out by both north block and south block in New Delhi, there has been an added push for imparting basic the know how of the mandarin language to security personnel from police and the defence establishments.

A batch of 16 police officers from Arunachal Pradesh were made to undergo a two weeks course on the mandarin language at the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) Gujarat. The police officers, all of the rank deputy superintendent of police on probation picked up the basics on mandarin from Indian and Chinese teachers from Taiwan. While the batch of 16 police officers completed the course in 2021, they have been also given the task of teaching the language to other officials in their department.

Director of the institute’s Pasighat campus professor Avinash Kharel informed that military establishments too have sent their men for training in the past.

A welcome sign board at Sela Pass

Arunachal Pradesh which shares 1126 km border with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has been witnessed to periodic Chinese aggression the most recent being a face off in the Tawang sector on October last year. Media reports quoting the Pentagon had said that China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) has been constructing villages along the LAC, located in a contested area along the Tsari river. However, the report was later contested by India stating that no territory on the Indian side of the LAC has been transgressed by

But Chinese attempts to infiltrate the Indian border along Arunachal Pradesh is well known and so also its claim over all of Arunachal Pradesh as “southern Tibet.” Security agencies say that the Chinese aggression could see an increase along the eastern flank covering

Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim. Intelligence sources too believe that both infrastructure building and patrolling along disputed areas have been stepped by the Chinese.

Thus, beyond operational and military preparedness with stepping up fire-power along Tawang and other sectors in Arunachal Pradesh, New Delhi has been pushing for developing the border infrastructure and connectivity as part of its border management plans. “The addition of language to all this is nothing new, it’s been there but now we are scaling up,” said a government official.

In fact, the focus on learning mandarin Chinese has become a priority across various security establishments in India. The Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has launched a full-fleged course for its officer and soldiers to learn mandarin Chinese.

Tawang’s entry gate

Recently, a 600 gm Artificial Intelligence based device developed by an Indian start-up, Cogknit which is programmed to understand Mandarin and respond back instantly, was unveiled by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on July 11. According to reports Indian soldiers patrolling along the LAC will be able to understand Mandarin and reply back immediately whenever they come face to face with Chinese soldiers.

Media reports quoted the technology firms as saying that the device is an “offline handheld language translation system which works based on AI,” and that it is bidirectional with a range of 5-10 feet and converts Mandarin to English. The army has already conducted trails of the device since its first demonstration in 2017.

The onus of teaching Mandarin for security agencies which patrol the Indian-China border along the eastern flank has been vested on the RRU. The university which was upgraded as an Institute of National Importance elevating it to a national level university in 2020 has been mandated to conduct the trainings in mandarin and other languages which can make internal security and border management more effective. The university which has various other academic degree and diploma programmes focused on police administration and internal security, forensic sciences, criminology and behavioral sciences, cyber security,
information technology and defence studies has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Arunachal Pradesh to start a campus in Pasighat.

Jaswantgarh War Memorial

The Pasighat campus has started with five basic diploma, police management, post graduate, fitness management, course for ex-servicemen and a course for current servicemen as well. According to Khare, “all the diploma and degree holders get an added weightage when they apply for state recruitments.”

RRU spokesperson Sabyasachi Kumar if of the opinion that learning mandarin will be useful to personnel working with security agencies considering that Arunachal Pradesh shares borders with China. “Learning the basics of Mandarin language so that they can somehow relate or communicate with the border areas,” The RRU spokesperson added.

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