The joint statement issued in Tokyo on December 15, 2006 by the prime ministers of Japan and India, Mr Shinzo Abe and Dr. Manmohan Singh to substantiate strategic partnership, identified the need of quantum increase in cultural, academic, and people-to people exchanges between the two countries.
These include introduction of Japanese as an optional foreign language in Indian schools by Central Board of Secondary Education, providing opportunities of short term visits to Japan to those who had shown outstanding Japanese language learning abilities by securing high marks at Japanese language institutions or by winning the All India
Japanese Language speech contest organised by Mombusho Scholars Association of India
(popularly known as MOSAI), and sending Japanese Language teachers to India
There are about 20,000 learners of Japanese in India now (a sizeable increase compared to about 600 in the 1970s), a number which is nearing the target, set a few years back, of 30,000 Japanese knowing Indians.
With increasing number of Japanese ventures coming to India, especially along the Delhi Mumbai Corridor, the demand for Japanese knowing persons has grown many folds. As jobs in Japanese companies in India generally require, in addition to knowledge of Japanese, knowledge of some other subject like engineering, commerce, IT etc, a number of private institutions are offering part-time Japanese language courses and provide the bulk of Japanese knowing human resource.
Standard of Japanese language ability, in these cases, is tested by Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) of Japan Foundation. Number of Indians taking JLPT has been about 8000 every year. Higher Japanese language education at M.A. and PhD level, essential for academic professions, continues to be imparted at only a few Universities (Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Delhi, Viswabharati University, (Shantiniketan) and English and Foreign Language University, Hyderabad).
The supply of Japanese knowing human resource In India is, at times, not able to cope up with the growing demand coming from Japanese companies in India, Indian companies operating in Japan and even third country joint ventures. Shortage of Japanese language teachers is a major bottle neck.
The visit of the Japanese Prime Minister prompts further initiatives such as setting up of a Japan Centre in India for Japanese language teachers training as also to act as a node to provide referral services to facilitate academic exchanges.
The two Prime Ministers in 2006 had welcomed the “understandings on Sister State relationship” reached between some Indian states and Japanese prefectures. Setting up of a Japan Centre in one such state, in my opinion, will also give substance to the “twinning arrangement of Sister States” envisaged in the joint statement issued by the two Prime Ministers back in 2006.
(About the Author: Prof. Sushama Jain teaches Japanese language at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)