Language becomes a barrier to Nepal-China border security

Published On: September 10, 2023 03:30 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, Sept 10: The Armed Police Force of Nepal marked a significant development on Friday by establishing a Border Out Post (BOP) at Tinker, situated in the Darchula district, near the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. During the inauguration ceremony, Additional Inspector General (AIG) Banshiraj Dahal, who oversees the Border Security Department, underscored the paramount importance of border security and the role of the armed police. However, he did not address the ongoing language barrier challenge affecting border patrols.

In the Nepal-China border region, the armed police endeavors to deploy personnel who are proficient in the Chinese language to minimize language-related issues. Nevertheless, not all personnel possess fluency in Chinese. The issue is compounded by the change of security personnel every six months, leading to difficulties in comprehending the Chinese language and lifestyle for the newly assigned teams.

This situation sometimes results in BOP commanders and patrolling security personnel returning without a clear understanding of the language and local customs. Consequently, the prior team cannot effectively convey their experiences to the incoming team.

Shailendra Thapa, Assistant Spokesperson of the Armed Police Force, addressed this concern, stating, "Officials in Tinker are currently undergoing Chinese language training to address the challenges at the border." He added that the newly established BOP is approximately 112 km north of Darchula headquarters.

With the establishment of the Tinker BOP on Friday, the total number of BOPs now stands at 252, comprising nine along the China border and 243 along the India border.

Notably, the Hilsa crossing in Humla is considered particularly sensitive, as it is a primary route for Indian tourists embarking on the Mansarovar Yatra pilgrimage. Given the close interaction between Chinese security personnel, Chinese People's Liberation Army officials, and Nepal Armed Police Force officials at this point, the Armed Police Force has prioritized the Hilsa border in Humla.

APF Inspector General Raju Aryal has personally instructed that only personnel proficient in the Chinese language be stationed there. However, it remains a challenge to recruit individuals with language skills for all border locations.

Some relief comes from the fact that the Chinese side has stationed interpreters at certain locations. A source within the APF commented, "Armed Police Force Nepal continues to establish BOPs along the China border, and there is an imperative need for coordinated joint border patrols. Nonetheless, language barriers remain a significant hurdle in this regard."

BOP of the Armed Police finds its home at Nechung near Korla Nak in Mustang, a location thoughtfully facilitated by Chinese authorities who have stationed an interpreter there. However, the APF's six-month personnel rotation policy has posed linguistic challenges for those stationed at the BOP bordering China. In response to the Chinese preference for their native language over English, the APF has made proficiency in Chinese mandatory for personnel deployed in the northern region.

Assistant Spokesperson Thapa elaborated on the innovative communication approach used in places where Chinese security officials provide interpreters. "Especially in areas with Chinese interpreters, Nepali personnel converse in English and Nepali, and the interpreter facilitates translation into Chinese. This method effectively addresses the language barrier," he explained.

At Kimathanka in Sankhuwasabha, collaboration with local residents from Nepal has been instrumental. While the commanding officers may be proficient in Chinese, field personnel often lack language skills. Here, local representatives and teachers have played a crucial role in bridging the communication gap.

Efforts are underway to ensure that individuals who can speak Chinese are deployed to all feasible locations. "As per our training curriculum, personnel assigned to BOPs in China are undergoing language studies in Kathmandu. They will soon be deployed to Tinker and other areas where officers with some language proficiency have already been stationed," Assistant Spokesperson Thapa revealed.

The situation in Tatopani, Lamabagar mirrors that of Kimathanka, with local residents, representatives, and teachers contributing to problem-solving, supplemented by interpreters as needed. In contrast, security personnel and commanders in Rasuwa's Timure are overwhelmingly equipped with proficiency in Chinese.

It's important to note that language issues are not encountered along the Indian border. This doesn't imply that personnel assigned to BOPs on the Indian side are exempt from learning Hindi; they are required to do so. However, in the case of China, it is evident to those returning from deployments that many challenges can be mitigated by deploying officers who are fluent in the Chinese language.

A security guard stationed at the Chinese border shared insights, noting that the Chinese officials primarily respond in English, often limited to "yes" and "no," and exhibit a keen interest in matters related to Tibetan refugees. Due to their unwavering commitment to security protocols, at times, personnel are only allowed to enter China after completing rigorous security checks.

Enhanced clothing provisions for APF personnel deployed in Mountain border security

In a recent development, the Armed Police Force has provided its personnel stationed in the high Himalayan region with upgraded clothing items, including 'Down Jackets' and 'Himali Chusta' (a special uniform). This initiative was implemented by the government this year as part of a comprehensive revision to clothing-related facilities. The changes came into effect following the government's amendments to the Armed Police Regulations, which expanded the range of entitlements and introduced the provision of special uniforms and down jackets. Prior to this revision, armed police personnel were exclusively provided with 'Snow Park' jackets.

This move aims to make the challenging stay in the high mountainous region more comfortable by ensuring that security personnel are adequately equipped with warm clothing. The armed police headquarters emphasized that the winter conditions in these harsh environments necessitated the introduction of down jackets, as the previous snow park jackets alone were insufficient.

In addition to down jackets, the revised regulations have also introduced warm special uniforms to replace the previous cotton-padded uniform suits worn by APF personnel. The revised Armed Police Regulations were officially published in the National Gazette on December 26. This crucial update addresses the longstanding issue of APF personnel in the high Mountain region lacking suitable winter clothing.

Under the revised regulations, APF personnel will now receive one tracksuit and one pair of sports shoes annually. This provision is made available to each member on an annual basis. Furthermore, junior officers will have access to the same high-quality boots as their senior counterparts, eliminating the discrimination in footwear quality. Additionally, the restriction on acquiring ceremonial dress has been lifted. Previously, ceremonial dress was exclusively provided to gazetted officers during both summer and winter seasons, but now it will be accessible to all APF personnel.


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