Armed forces

Learning Mandarin and Tibetan Made Compulsory for ITBP Recruits

The new rule has been put in place to make communication with Chinese Liberation Army soldiers at the India-China border smoother.

Only around 150 personnel in 90,000-member force speak the language at the moment. Credit: PTI

Only around 150 personnel in 90,000-member force speak the language at the moment. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has now made it compulsory for all new recruits to speak the Chinese language – both Mandarin and the version of it spoken in Tibet. This decision was announced the same day as the standoff between the two countries at Doklam came to an end.

According to a report in the Indian Express, only around 150 personnel in 90,000-member force speak the languages at the moment. Most of those who do speak the language didn’t know it when they first joined the force, but learnt it later during mid-career training at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the report said.

“This year onward, learning of the language has been made part of the one-year training course for recruits,” a senior ITBP officer told the newspaper. “We are a force fully deployed on the border with China. It is only prudent that every personnel should know the language. We interact with Chinese soldiers almost on a daily basis. A good knowledge of their language may help avoid misunderstandings and lead to better resolution of confrontations that arise out of ground zero developments.” Communicating with soldiers China’s People Liberation Army without any miscommunication is difficult without a working knowledge of Mandarin, sourced in the force were quoted as saying.

Since verbal communication is not possible at the moment, both sides hold up banners if there is a transgression, asking the other side to retreat. “A verbal communication has a more personal feel and helps in defusing tension. At least fist-fights and stone-pelting, as witnessed recently in Pangong Tso, can be avoided. It will also help in building relations at the ground level,” the officer told Indian Express.

Attempts to teach more officers the language are already underway. The ITBP has reportedly hired 12 language teachers at its training centre in Mussoorie. Recruits who are trained there will now have to pass tests in both Mandarin and Tibetan before they can be deployed. “Those who get trained in the language will also go through refresher courses later, and will be used to train others in the units. Currently, those who know the language can barely speak 10 sentences. The idea is to help them hold a conversation, with proficiency in 50-60 sentences that they can use for an interaction with the Chinese. Eventually, the entire force will have a working knowledge of the language,” said the officer quoted by Indian Express.