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When Modi and Xi talk in China, only one other Indian will be present

R Madhu Sudan, first secretary (political) at the Indian embassy in Beijing, will serve as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interpreter at the informal summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2018 10:17 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Modi-Xi summit,Modi-Xi meet,Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping for the BRICS Summit in Benaulim, Goa.(PTI File Photo)

The only other Indian at the informal summit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping — it has already been announced that they will meet in private, without aides and written notes, and with no set agenda or pre-negotiated statements — will be R Madhu Sudan, first secretary (political) at the Indian embassy in Beijing.

Madhu Sudan has been asked to be Modi’s interpreter at the summit on April 27 and 28, according to people familiar with the details of the meeting who asked not to be identified.

The task of the interpreter in such meetings is straightforward, but difficult: to ensure that nothing is lost in translation.

“The choice of interpreters is important. They should have the felicity of language and understanding of the issues the leaders would possibly talk about. So it is always a careful choice,” explained one of the people cited in the first instance.

Madhu Sudan is also special assistant to the Indian ambassador and a fluent Mandarin speaker. It could well be a coincidence that the present foreign secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale was first secretary (political) at the Indian embassy in Beijing when the landmark summit meeting between late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping, the late paramount leader of China, took place in 1988.

Madhu Sudan belongs to the 2007 batch of the Indian Foreign Service and has spent most of his professional career in China. His first posting abroad after the training was to the Indian embassy in China as third secretary from 2009 to 2011.

After serving two years in Indian consulate in San Francisco, he was posted back to China in 2013 as the second secretary to Indian embassy in Beijing.

“He has been interpreting high-level meetings for some years now. He was the interpreter when President Xi came to India in 2014,” said a government official who asked not to be identified.

Prime Minister Modi prefers to speak in Hindi during most of his foreign engagements, and the presence of a translator/interpreter is critical.

Nilakshi Saha Sinha, a director in the ministry of external affairs, who is conversant in Hindi, English, Bengali and French , is one of his preferred interpreters.

First Published: Apr 26, 2018 07:42 IST