Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lost Without Translation

File this story under Department of Things So Stupid You Know Rehman Malik is Somehow Behind It

About 10 days ago, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that India had provided the government with further information about the Mumbai terrorist attacks (via Saba Imtiaz). Unfortunately, these documents were in Marathi, so we had no clue what they said.

The saga of the untranslated documents isn't over yet:

Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and urged India to provide English translation of the Mumbai terror strike evidence...He also reiterated his request that some of the evidence given by India to Pakistan which was originally in Marathi could be translated into English and sent back.

I have two questions for Messers Rehman and Shahid Malik (who are only related through their low IQs). Why does our much vaunted ISI, whose only official job is foreign intelligence, only have a single staffer that can speak Marathi? And even if the Indians are kind enough to provide us with a translation, what reason do we have for believing them, especially since we only asked for this information because we weren't willing to take the Indians at their word?

If I were Indian, my answer to the Pakistani would be simple: Google is your friend. Click on this link and choose from the dozens of sites offering Marathi to English translation.


Anonymous said...

And why the fuck the Indian government had to provide the documents in Marathi, in the first place?
Would they have done the same to USA/UK/France? or for that matter, even to China or Russia?

Man, our countries are in a race to prove who is more dumb...

Ahsan said...

I think the Indian logic was: since you're not going to read this anyway, we might as well make it indecipherable.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right :-)
But honestly, they should have some diplomatic courtesy.

Sujit Jadhav said...

If the original evidence is in Marathi then it must be provided as it is. Be it US,UK,France or any other govt. And I believe that in todays world every govt has translation experts for all major languages of the world. Now dont say that Marathi is not a major language. Is is mother tounge of 7 cr people in the world

bubs said...

Anon643: I agree that India should have provided a translation with the original. But ten days later, we shouldn't be waiting for them to cooperate. And we should verified their translation ourselves.

Ahsan: More likely the Indian logic was: since you're not going to believe this anyway, we might as well make it indecipherable.

Sujit Jadhav: I don't know what the protocol is for sharing intelligence but it is stupid for Pakistan not to have Marathi translators. Then again, maybe we do and this is just a way for Pakistan to claim we still don't have proof of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attacks. After all, how can it count as proof if we can't read it.

Raza said...

It's actually pretty ludacris to be providing documents that aren't at least in the giver's national language (which in the case of India, is English). Why should anyone in the Pakistan government know how to read and translate Marathi? It's like if something happened in Belgium and the Belgian government gave us documents not in English, or even French, but in Flemish.

Isha said...

They asked for transcripts as it is. If we would have provided them translated scripts, they would have said "u have changed it". Kindly provide the reference. Every govt has translators or maybe Pak govt is broke to keep translators. Forget transcripts. They didnt do any investigation on the sites, locations provided by India neither the allowed Indian team to do it. They just did "TIME PASS". Asked for proof. Found out loop holes. ASked for more proof. Found more loopholes. In the meanwhile Sayeed's arrest period got over and voila he is a 'free' man. But its only tarnishing Pak's name in the world as it is splashed in all print media!

nikhil said...

India's official language is Hindi, not English. Marathi is the official language of Maharashtra, of which Bombay is a part - hence the report in those two languages.

Also, Belgium would be entirely within it's rights to provide information in Flemish, given that Flemish is one of the country's three official languages and moreover, the most widely spoken.

Your comment is entirely pointless.

AKS said...


Is there a different between national language and official language in India? In Pakistan Urdu is the national language but Urdu and English are official languages. I was under the assumption that the same was the case with India.

Also, while I agree that Belgium is within its rights to only provide an official document in an official language of its choosing, the question to ask is would it do so? Or would it adhere to good diplomatic manners and provide a translation in a recognised international language such as French (incidentally an official Belgian language) or English?

I'd have to go with the former.

The Pakistani government has been so uncooperative throughout that Indian officials have every right to not exhibit any social / diplomatic graces towards it.

Ahsan said...


I don't know if India even has an "official" language the way Pakistan does, but I do know India's "national" language is Hindi.

After independence, there was a great deal of debate within India (given its multinational and multi-linguistic character) about this official/national language business (as indeed there was in Pakistan, language riots in Bengal anyone?).

Anyway, the draft constitution of 1948 (India's) left the question unresolved. In 1949, a vote was held, and Hindi got 78 and Hindustani (basically the vernacular or Hindi/Urdu mix) got 77. The right in India (HSS for instance) classified Hindustani as just another name for Urdu, and identified it with Islam and Pakistan. So it was decided to not have a national language but instead make Hindi the official language as a sort of compromise given the widespread opposition in other states to make Hindi the "official" language.

I don't know if India still doesn't have an "official" language, but I'm willing to bet it doesn't.

AKS said...

Thanks Ahsan. I did what I guess I should have done in the first place, i.e. googled "India official language," and according to Encyclopedia Britannica Hindi and English are both official languages.

One last point, I don't think India's reaction has been appropriate. Now take a breath my Indian friends, what I mean to say is that the Indian government and the Indian media have not responded in a manner befitting their status as a regional power. The balance of power between Pakistan and India is so decisively tilted in India's favour that it no longer needs to consider Pakistan as being on an equal footing. The Pakistani military in particular, refuses to accept this fact and is only going to find encouragement from pissy Indian reaction.

I can just imagine a couple of officers thinking: 'we have terrorists attack all the time, these daal eaters can't handle 20 Pakistanis (better keep that in mind for future reference).'

nsahmed said...

absolutely love:
"Things So Stupid You Know Rehman Malik is Somehow Behind It"

Anonymous said...

Hey, how about rousing out Dawood & Co. (the original immigrants from Maharashtra's Ratnagiri coast) and get them to translate Marathi into English. Last seen somewhere in Karachi. It's time the buggers earned their keep.

ISha said...

AKS and Ahsan,
As per my knowledge, India has 21 national languages and 2 official languages i.e Hindi and English.
I am pretty sure I am right, but I can be wrong.
One more question, can I ask if Ahsan is an Indian or a Pakistani? If you dont answer its ok :)

Ahsan said...