From the Viewsroom

As a matter of speech

NS Vageesh | Updated on January 08, 2018

Why this unnecessary diplomatic harangue over Hindi in the UN?

One of the first things that is drilled into any communicator is that your audience must understand what you are saying. You have got to be clear, logical, build your case, make your point succinctly and most importantly – end it quickly. Of course one important caveat left unsaid, presuming it to be something basic, is that you speak to the audience in the language they understand.

None of these fundamental rules seem to apply in the United Nations, particularly the General Assembly. A case in point is the recent move by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to get Hindi accepted as one of the languages used at the UN – a move that will require the support of 129 countries in the 193 member body.

Aren’t we wasting time and consuming precious political and diplomatic capital on these unnecessary expeditions? Why should we assume that these countries are fighting over themselves to have Hindi on the line when they are managing pretty well without it. As it is, the attendance at the General Assembly doesn’t give one the impression that delegates are fighting to get in and listen to other leaders drone.

It is bad enough to be harangued in a language that one knows. Imagine the plight of the General Assembly audience that has to suffer through languages they don’t understand. Would you not switch off if you were there? Yes, there are simultaneous translations and interpreters – but the effect is not the same. Is it any wonder that a lot of India’s arguments go over the heads of the assembled delegates?

Perhaps our foreign minister, who has done signal service in a number of areas, should do a rethink. After all, if you want to win friends and de-fang enemies, you must do it by speaking their language, or one they understand, and get your message across. Swaraj’s move may please some domestic constituency, but is certainly not going to win any new friends for India outside.

Associate Editor

Published on January 07, 2018

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