Sushma Swaraj, Shashi Tharoor trade barbs over Hindi

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday snubbed Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in Lok Sabha for questioning the rationale of the government's efforts to get Hindi official language status at the United Nations. PTI file

A war of words has erupted between Indian politician Shashi Tharoor and India's Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj over making Hindi an official language at the United Nations.

Responding to Tharoor and the BJP MPs, Swaraj said Hindi was an official language even in Fiji, and was spoken widely in Mauritius, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and many other countries. "Why should we put our future Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers who may be from Tamil Nadu in a position", he said.

In reply to a question, Swaraj said: "It is often asked why Hindi is not an official language in the UN".

Sushma Swaraj will also share with her interlocutors information about the upcoming Asean-India Commemorative Summit that marks 25 years since the establishment of Dialogue Partnership between India and the regional bloc. "It is not hard to get the support of two-thirds member nations".

To allow for the United Nations to make Hindi an official language could cost about 40 crore rupees, or about OMR2.5 million per annum.

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"It is not hard to get the support of two-third member-nations". She added that the government was ready to set aside Rs 400 crore for the objective.

Replying to a written question in the Rajya Sabha on whether construction of dams by China on the tributaries of the Brahmaputra has contaminated its waters, the minister said the government has noted the Chinese foreign ministry's statement denying such a link and that it was caused by an quake in the region and was not a manmade incident.

"For us to be spending government resources, for seeking to promote Hindi in this goal raises an important question as to why do we need to make it an official language?" asks Tharoor. All member nations have to bear the expenses of making Hindi an official UN language, she said. However, she added that spending money would not serve the goal. "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 added. Seeking to promote Hindi raises an important question.

Several members of the treasury benches protested after Tharoor finished his statement.

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday arrived in Indonesia after having "a productive engagement" in Thailand. "Saying Hindi is spoken only in India is your ignorance".

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