The NED University of Engineering and Technology (NED) has made learning Chinese mandatory for all first-year students inducted in 2017 and beyond, according to a notification issued by the university's registrar.

All students from the university's latest batch have been asked to register by Dec 15 for the "Chinese Language" course being offered.

It will count as a non credit course, however; signalling that while the university may not be aiming at producing fluent speakers just yet, it does want its students to have a basic knowledge of the language's mechanics.

Interest in Chinese languages, mainly Mandarin, has picked up considerably in Pakistan ever since the formal announcement of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The program offered by NED, which envisions itself as becoming "a leader in enabling Pakistan's social and economic transformation", seems to echo a wider belief that learning Chinese languages may help unlock a more prosperous future as the two countries move closer together.

This trend has also been noted at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) in Islamabad, which is dedicated to language studies.

Though the university has had a Chinese language department in September 1970, interest in the department has increased exponentially since it enrolled its first batch, which comprised only 13 students.

More recently, NUML officials say, enrolment has nearly doubled year-on-year. This year, 460 students have been admitted into their Chinese programme: 300 in the morning and 160 in the evening shifts.

To match this increasing demand, the Chinese government contributed towards the expansion of the Confucius Institute at NUML back in 2015.

"This centre will contribute towards cementing Pak-China relations," Zhang Daojian, a lecturer at the institute, had told Dawn at that point.