Six years ago, India and China decided to establish a hotline between their respective Prime Ministers. In 2010, they went a step ahead and signed an agreement to formalise this. Yet, as of January 2015, there is no such hotline.
Government sources have confirmed to HT that the India-China PM hotline has still not got operationalised. The disclosure comes days after Delhi and Washington agreed to establish a hotline both at the level of the Indian PM and the US president, and their respective National Security Advisors.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and new foreign secretary S Jaishankar departed for Beijing on Saturday, in the backdrop of the recent India-US Joint Vision for Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region.
Sources did not offer a clear reason as to why the hotline was not established. Some said it was due to 'technical issues'; a former official who has dealt with China and a current official did not respond to questions.
In April 2010, during a visit of the then external affairs minister S M Krishna to Beijing, the two countries signed an agreement to establish a hotline at the PM level. Krishna had then said it showed how close India and China were to each other. "This has been one of the highlights of my visit and it is fitting that the two countries were able to do it during the celebrations of the 60th year of diplomatic relations.
The agreement itself was a follow up to a decision taken by then PM Manmohan Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao in June 2009.
But after the India-US decision last week, former foreign secretary Sujatha Singh said that this would be the first hotline that the Indian PM has with any other leader. There are hotlines at the level of the military between India and China and India and Pakistan and foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, but none at the level of the PM.
Hotlines are secure telecommunication networks that allows leaders and officials at the highest level to step in when a crisis emerges. It also allows a constant channel of communication beyond regular meetings and diplomatic correspondence.