The Indian government is ready to meet costs of up to four billion rupees ($63 million), to make Hindi one of the official languages of the UN, according to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (Indian Express).
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, on January 3, Swaraj said that the only hindrance to making Hindi an official UN language is procedural, not financial. Hindi is India’s most widely-spoken language. Global variants include Fiji Hindi, an official language in Fiji, and versions of Hindi are also used in countries such as Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.
The United Nations at present has six official languages: Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. India first made the pitch for inclusion of Hindi at the United Nations in 2007 when it was reported that the Government of India would “make immediate diplomatic moves to seek the status of an official language for Hindi at the United Nations.” Less than three years ago in 2015, Parmananda Jha, the vice-President of India’s neighboring country Nepal affirmed his country’s firm support for the inclusion of Hindi as an official language of the UN (Firstpost).
As per present UN regulations, a two thirds support among the 193 member countries is required to approve a new official language. Swaraj said that although it is not difficult to obtain this support among member nations, the issue of bearing the expenses causes the numerous small nations of the UN to become reluctant. This has become a big impediment in making Hindi an official language. Despite the troubles, efforts will be continued to include Hindi at the UN, Swaraj added.
This latest development had its own share of controversies with Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram, fiercely speaking out against the government’s attempt to make Hindi an official UN language.
Tharoor asked in parliament, “If tomorrow someone from Tamil Nadu or from West Bengal becomes the prime minister, why should we force him to speak in Hindi at the UN?” as reported by Outlook India.
Further adding that India is the only country where Hindi has an official status he said, “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.” (NDTV). “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.
His criticisms were dismissed by Swaraj who said that: “Saying Hindi is spoken only in India is your ignorance.” (Times of India.)