Director General Xu Lin,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Central Board of Secondary Education, India, and Hanban, China. The MoU that has just been concluded lays the basis for cooperation between India and China on the teaching of Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language in Indian schools. It envisages the exchanges of academic staff, teachers, trainees, experts, and students. It provides for development of curricula and exchange of educational material and aids. This is indeed an important step forward in the growing relationship between two neighbours.
2. The knowledge connections between India and China go back well in time. They evoke references to the Silk Route and the Tea & Horse Road. Scholars and travelers have gone back and forth, enriching both nations. Today, the challenge is to revive those historical linkages and diminish the sense of distance that recent history has introduced. At a time when we are building a strategic and cooperative partnership, expanding our trade and economic cooperation and working together on global issues, it is important that this is strengthened by greater people-to-people understanding.
3. On that front, we have seen important initiatives in the last few years. Our tourism flows have increased and air connections expanded, though not yet to our full satisfaction. The Festival of India that went to 40 Chinese cities in 2010 was a great success. Youth exchanges have been taking place frequently. Our universities are getting more connected and the number of students is steadily increasing. The initiative that this event takes forward, however is of exceptional and long-term significance. If Indian school students are provided opportunities to learn Mandarin, their understanding and appreciation of China and its culture will grow enormously. We will truly be shaping the thinking of future generations. I am particularly pleased that we are moving forward in the Year of Friendship and Cooperation. We look forward very much to working with Hanban to make this a great success.