New Delhi: Narendra Modi has disrupted the peaceful rise of India. His successor will have a perilous time of putting the country back on rails even if it remains intact and is not structurally damaged. The growing world disorder will likely consign India’s future further into jeopardy. This is the hazard of electing a Prime Minister who has no strategic vision and not even the barest acquaintance with history.

In 1991, India had redoubtable threats that countered its territorial integrity and national unity. India’s Cold War friend and sometime ally, the Soviet Union, had broken up, and grave doubts were expressed of India being able to stave off and survive a similar trajectory. Having succeeded with militancy in Afghanistan, Pakistan put its learning to use and advantage in Punjab and Kashmir, where local factors fanned the flames: J. S. Bhindranwale in one case, and the rigged 1987 elections in the other.

As India’s biggest weapons’ supplier, the collapse of the Soviet Union left the country geopolitically adrift. A brilliant Prime Minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao, who was as quiet as the incumbent is loud and shallow, set out to stabilize the situation, drawing upon his vast and legendary understanding of international politics. His breakthrough peace initiative with China kept the eastern frontier mostly tranquil until the current war rhetoric from both sides.

And although it was difficult to establish a connection then, Manmohan Singh’s 1991 reforms, which cannot be bested, greatly assisted Narasimha Rao’s efforts to stabilize and strengthen the country. The West, the victor of the Cold War, was relieved and elated that India was finally shedding Soviet-style socialism. It brought India goodwill and new standing in the international community.

The foundations that Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh laid for India’s peaceful rise were deepened and enhanced by Rao’s friend and the first non-Congress Prime Minister to last a full term, A. B. Vajpayee. In his years as Foreign Minister, Vajpayee had learnt a great deal about strategic engagement, and he was respected and trusted in South Asia. The 1998 nuclear test; the border ceasefire after the limited war with Pakistan; the continuation of economic reforms by such of his able cabinet ministers as Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie; and the country’s steady international rise were Vajpayee’s lasting contributions.

As Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh was greatly handicapped by the absence of his own political base, but despite the limitations, he left behind important and critical strategic legacies. An economist of international standing, he received high acclaim from world leaders. Intellectual power is denigrated in this country, but in geopolitics, it counts for much. As an intellectual, the former US President, Barack Obama, had few peers, but he thought Manmohan Singh outstanding.

Manmohan Singh’s greatest contribution was the ending of India’s nuclear isolation, abiding foundations of which had been laid by Vajpayee and the Jaswant-Strobe Talbot dialogues. Without laying stress on its military aspects, the nuclear deal ended India’s chronic uranium shortage. And despite the obstructions and corruption of his own party and the obstructions of small-minded opposition politicians like Modi, Manmohan Singh set the template for post-1991 economic reforms.

Through the terms of Narasimha Rao, Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, you will find a common thread running of the steady and peaceful rise of India. All three Prime Ministers were aware of the checks on India’s peaceful rise imposed by adversarial neighbours, but they opted for a balance of strategic restraint and economic growth, confident that India’s expanding heft would naturally tilt the scales to its favour in due course. That carefully constructed strategy has been not only abandoned but gratuitously destroyed by Narendra Modi.

India has been set on the road to military exhaustion. The details are painful to publicly share. The internal security situation is manifestly awful. Kashmir is on the boil. Muslims are being picked up one at a time and lynched: It is amazing that the Supreme Court is witnessing this unfolding horror without rapid intervention. And the 1991 reforms on which so much of India’s peaceful rise was constructed now threatens to unravel with regressive and mindless measures like demonetization. GST in its present form will further stunt growth.

As India declines economically, militarism has replaced diplomacy with neighbours and politics and the gentle discourse of democracy have been rudely thrust aside by ugly nationalism. The rulers are threatening and harassing all sections of people: Honest taxpayers, entrepreneurs, minorities, upstanding law enforcers, journalists, farmers... India has become a one-man show and peace has fled the land.

In the worst phase for the country, the frontiers are seething with hostility. And taking further account of the unsettling world situation, the country faces challenges no smaller than it did in 1991.