New Delhi: Politically, economically and militarily, India is in free fall. The United Progressive Alliance government will leave behind an almost failed state when it finishes term next year. Even if Narendra Modi becomes prime minister thereafter, he would have to strain his genius to put India again on rails. Between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, they have done a spectacular job of undermining the Indian ship of state.

Scan the headlines of the past ten days:

• A punk state like Italy cocks a snook at India, refusing to send back the two marines who killed two Indian fishermen. Because Sonia Gandhi is Italy-born, the government is embarrassed, but it doesn’t cover itself with subsequent glory. Anger is focused on the envoy who gave sovereign guarantees for the return of the killers after casting votes in the recent Italian elections, not on Italy. Rather than instantly expelling him and downgrading ties, the government hides behind the Supreme Court. The marines will not come back, and India has been slapped on both cheeks. To go running to the European Union to mediate is rank ignominious.

• Weeks after the beheading of an Indian soldier on the border with Pakistan, the foreign minister, Salman Khursheed, lunches with its prime minister on his private visit to the Ajmer dargah. There are smiling faces for the photographs. The Pakistan prime minister has barely returned to his country than terrorists kill CRPF jawans in Srinagar. On the heels of the incident, Pakistan’s national assembly passes a resolution condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru, which rankles India. Why was the Pakistan PM feted in the first place? Did Khursheed forget the decapitation? That’s another slap on the Indian face.

• Turn to the economy. It is in the doldrums. There are enough private bankers (although after the Cobrapost expose, they should all be suspect) who say privately that India qualifies for junk status, one step below where it is presently placed. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are squarely responsible for this mess, and it is beyond P.Chidambaram to save the situation. Votebank schemes like NREGA have bled the exchequer without bringing gains to the economy like skill development and assets creation, whilst entrepreneurship has been savaged by inspector raj, corruption, high interest rates, and banks’ unwillingness to lend to labour-intensive, risk-taking small-and-medium enterprises. Aside from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Maharashtra to an extent, manufacturing is nearly dead. Rating agencies are turning the screws on the government to improve the foreign investment climate. Standard & Poor’s thumbs down to growth prospects tumbled Indian stock-markets today. Meanwhile, high inflation won’t let up, and the loot continues. After rape, Delhi may well qualify as the bribe capital of India and the world. Bad news that doesn’t get better.

• Then consider the spectacle of the Union home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde. He reads the same statement on the Srinagar killings twice over in Parliament, unaware of what he is doing. He is the butt of jokes in the home ministry. With Shinde as home minister, you and I have no business to be resting at night. Under him, and under the United Progressive Alliance regime, it is open sesame for the Pakistani terrorists. Precisely because he is incompetent, Sonia Gandhi keeps him as home minister. One man’s poison becomes another man’s meat. • Next, check the neighbourhood. The minority Hindus are being attacked and killed in their homes in Bangladesh, but not even a whimper from the government. India’s policies in Sri Lanka run counter to the interests of Tamils who are, at the end of the day, this country’s strategic forward assets. Maldives has secretly threatened India to go with China should it not cease championing the cause of democracy in the island nation and of its deposed president, Mohamed Nasheed. In Nepal, we are no more sure-footed, and Afghanistan will sink our humanitarian investments once the Americans leave and the Taliban take over. Pakistan has become an even more implacable foe as it self-destructs with terrorism and Shia-Sunni sectarianism.

• Finally, in a crunch, the military will defend India and its integrity to the last soldier and the remotest territorial inch, but the government has ill-served it. The previous army chief was victimized partly for his honesty. His near-contemporary as air force chief is now wanted for helicopter bribes. Defence corruption not only has rotted the higher commands but reached unit levels with the greater involvement of private contractors. Officer-jawan ties are at their most fraught, since development, education and social rise have made impossible the previous abject subordination of the non-officer classes, who have also come to abhor the brass’s “five-star culture”. Respecting war-preparedness, gaps in military equipage have become more critical, made worse by lack of political will to confront enemy action and hostile intentions. The government has turned a blind eye to the decline of the armed forces, which sends wrong signals to the neighbourhood and beyond.

As this piece was being written, Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party was reported saying that India is being “kicked around”. That is scarcely surprising. India is being “kicked around” because this country is not being lead. A country owes its rise and greatness to many factors, but its paramount leaders, its prime ministers and presidents, bring it stardom and star power. Think in recent times of Deng Xiaoping, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher or even Indira Gandhi with her faults. When, in comparison, has prime minister Manmohan Singh ever shown or given leadership? Sonia Gandhi may crow about 15 years as Congress president, but two terms of her government have blighted India. This show is getting worse.