india
A worker checks aluminium utensils inside a factory in India (Reuters)

India and China, despite existing close to each other and being similar in terms of size and population, have never really been good neighbours. Sino-Indian relationships, ever since the subcontinent gained independence, have a history of friction that has even reached the point of military action.

But, things have changed since the 1990s. Although the two countries have not yet reached a total friendly alliance, India's economy has become increasingly dependent on its Communist neighbour.

China is currently India's biggest trading partner. Bilateral trade between the two countries have increased from a few billion dollars in 2005 to $74bn in 2011. Chinese investments in India stand over $55bn. 

A major limitation in the expansion of the relationship between the two countries has been the language barrier. While India, with its 22 official and numerous unofficial languages, consider English as a medium for business and formal communication, China has only started to popularise the use of English.

But now a growing number of Indian executives, businessmen and students are learning Chinese to equip themselves for a future where China might dominate.

"Indian software engineers with counterparts in China and businessmen, from sectors such as textile and furnishings, who wish to do business in China are becoming more interested," says Arun Gorur, who owns the Ni Hao Chinese language institute in South India. 

Gorur added that he has also had "corporate engagements" with companies such as Intel and Fidelity, who frequently send some of their employees to China. Since Chinese language is radically different from English and Indian languages, Gorur has developed a curriculum customised for the Indian students.

Rishikesh Giri, a software professional who has been learning the language for more than a year, points out that India's growing economic dependence on China will mean that more people will be interested in the language in the future.

According to a report from the Indian publication Mint, several Indian Business Schools too are offering Mandarin as an optional course and at least one of them has made it a mandatory part of the syllabus.

"China is emerging as a huge economy and bigger things in trade and business are set to happen between India and China. By imparting Mandarin to our students, we are expanding the horizon," a spokesperson from the Indian Institute of Managements, Shillong, a premier B-school in the country that teaches the language, told Mint.

The Indian government has also realised the importance of the Chinese language.  The country's Central Board of Secondary Education has decided to send 300 of its teachers to China to learn the language after a survey that showed significant interest from the institutions. The Chinese government, on its part has agreed to cover all the expenses of educating the 300 teachers, in a bid to promote the language.