Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
As was widely reported in Indian media in recent weeks, a “hotline” or 24/7 secure line of telephone communication has been operationally inaugurated between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi. “This is a secure line between two very, very close partners so that they can exchange views at the heads of state level…exchange views and co-ordinate approaches to solving real problems,” said Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asian Affairs at the US National Security Council, to the Times of India.
On the face of it, this might not seem like such a big deal. Obama and Modi, thanks to their undeniably strong personal rapport, could already find a way to reach one another on the phone if they really urgently wanted to prior to the hotline. They’ve met personally twice already, and will be doing so again in New York later this month when Modi comes back to the United States for the UN General Assembly and to address the powerful brown community in Silicon Valley.
However, a hotline denotes several advances. First of all is prestige. It symbolically represents the two nations coming closer together, for India has never had a head of state hotline with any other country before, while only three other nations- China, Russia, and Great Britain- have a hotline to the president. In the cases of China and Russia, the hotlines clearly exist to diffuse a suddenly emerging crisis, such as nuclear conflagration or quite possibly World War III. Meanwhile the US has a hotline with UK because they are publicly acknowledged best friends. The Obama-Modi hotline seems to be closer in scope to the latter than the former- though crisis mode is never far when it comes to South Asia. We can now expect more frequent contact between the two leaders and their national security staff. This can only be a good thing, and should be seen as a welcome gesture after a long history of mistrust between the two countries.