External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reaches Thailand for the first leg of her 3-nation visit; As India marks 25 years of its partnership with ASEAN and in keeping with its Act East Policy, Swaraj is visiting Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore from January 4-8.
"The United Nations has a specific procedure for a language to be recognised as an official language of the UN". Sushma said such recognition required a two-thirds majority vote among the UN's 193 member-countries and for them to share the expenditure.
Swaraj said India was "attempting to get the support of countries like Fiji, Mauritius, Surinam", where there are non-resident Indians. Also, all member nations will have to bear the cost of making Hindi one of the official language of the UN.
Tharoor, who worked in the UN and announced his retirement after finishing second in the 2006 election for UN Secretary-General, questioned the need to push for Hindi, which he pointed out was not even the national language of India. He also pointed out that though there were six official languages in the United Nations, only two - English and French - were working languages, "just like how Hindi and English are working languages in India".
To that, the senior minister said: "Not just Rs 40 crore, the government is ready to spend Rs 400 crore on it". Seeking to promote Hindi raises an important question.
"What objective is being served by this? 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.
"The question is what objective is being served by this".
"Why should we put our future Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers who may be from Tamil Nadu in a position where they are condemned to be speaking a language for which we are paying?"
Swaraj hit back at Tharoor and said Hindi is spoken in many other countries as well. If they speak in their own language, we speak in Hindi.
The external affairs minister added that "A World Hindi Secretariat has also been set up in Mauritius in February 2008 to promote Hindi as an worldwide language". She wrote, "I am proud of all Indian languages".