Hindi as India’s official language at UN: Subject pits Shashi Tharoor against Sushma Swaraj

Sushma Swaraj and Shashi Tharoor got into a debate over Hindi as an official language for India at the United Nations, in the Lok Sabha.

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday witnessed a heated exchange between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, over Hindi being an official language for India in the United Nations, as reported by Economic Times.

Sushma Swaraj explained that the procedure is long and requires two-thirds of the 193 member countries of the UN to vote in favour of Hindi being an official language in the UN, and also share the resulting financial expenditure in the process.

Swaraj said India was “attempting to get the support of countries like Fiji, Mauritius, Surinam,” where there are non-resident Indians. “When we get that kind of support and the economically weaker countries are also ready to bear the financial burden, it will become an official language,” she added.

When Shashi Tharoor challenged her on why it needs to be pushed, the Minister dismissed his remark as ‘ignorant’.

Swaraj said the government would readily spend even Rs 400 crore on this, when pointed out the process of making Hindi an official language would incur an expenditure of Rs 40 crores. She added, money would, however, not serve the purpose.

She stressed on the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and she spoke at the UN in Hindi. “As far as glory of the language is concerned, the External Affairs Ministry never had so much work done in Hindi as now,” she said.

Shashi Tharoor, against this move, asked why Hindi had to be pushed as the official language when it was not even the national language of India. He demanded to know why we needed an official language at the UN at all.

“Seeking to promote Hindi raises an important question. Arabic does not have more speakers than Hindi, but Arabic is spoken by 22 countries, whereas Hindi is only used as an official language by one country — us,” he said.

He further added that any future Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers who did not prefer to communicate in Hindi, would be put in a difficult spot and that would be unfair.

“If indeed we have a Prime Minister or Foreign Minister who prefers to speak Hindi, they can do so and we can pay to get that speech to be translated,” he explained.

“The government has to defend its position. I understand the pride of Hindi-speaking people, but people of this country who do not speak in Hindi also take pride in being Indian,” he said.

The statement did not go well with several members of the treasury benches who raised the pitch in protest.

Sushma Swaraj said Hindi was spoken in several other countries as well as by the Indian diaspora abroad. “Saying Hindi is spoken only in India is your ignorance.”

In a written reply, she said India was in touch with 129 countries to make this happen.

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