GILGIT (ET): The region’s first Chinese language centre started classes in Gilgit, with 40 students enrolled in the first batch. The Pakistan-China Friendship Language Centre is a joint initiative of the Chinese government and the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) education department. Located in Gilgit High School No 1, the centre will be managed by the G-B chapter of the Overseas Chinese Association. While inaugurating the centre a day earlier, Chief Minister Mehdi Shah said it will help strengthen economic and cultural ties between both countries.
The close proximity of G-B is an important factor in the potential opportunities the centre will create for those willing to learn the language of their neighbours.
“There will be two classes held daily and each class will have 20 students,” said Abdul Rahman Bukhari, the association’s general secretary.
“It will be a two year degree and it will be issued by a university recognised by the Chinese government,” said Bukhari. Bukhari said traders and other businessmen could benefit from the facility, as the language-barrier is a challenge for those hoping to do business across the border or earning a livelihood from Chinese tourists. Furthermore, learning Chinese is considered vital for trade, which officials hope will get a major boost from the proposed railway track project with China. Currently, China’s only road route to Pakistan is the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which cuts an impressive path through G-B’s rugged terrain, attracting billions of rupees in trade.
In G-B educational institutions, Chinese language is an optional subject. A similar language centre will be constructed in Skardu.