New Delhi: If you have a single sensible nerve in your being, you would be appalled by what the newspapers are telling you day after day after day. Artillery duels across the India-Pakistan frontier have become a regular feature killing civilians, especially women and children, on both sides. For the third day today, the Line of Control in the Poonch region has seen unremitting firing between Pakistani and Indian troops.

Meanwhile, the situation in the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir has turned from bad to worse. Touted as a cure for militancy, demonetization has abjectly failed to check its peaking trend in the state. A rising number of civilians, soldiers and militants are being killed in Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan is straining every nerve to internationalize the Kashmir dispute. It may yet succeed in its mission in the not-too-distant future.

With China too, India’s relations have frozen into hostility. While a conflict may not break out anytime soon, China’s psychological wars can sap India. The Narendra Modi government had invested so much in the Doklam faceoff that China’s tactical withdrawal turned relief of the outcome into unseemly and, as it transpires, premature chest-thumping and nationalistic celebration. At the time of writing, the Foreign Secretary had air-dashed to Bhutan in the face of a renewed Chinese troops’ build-up near Doklam.

With the external situation so grave and fraught, you would expect the Narendra Modi government to aim to preserve calm at home. After all, domestic stability and unity are keys to neutralizing external threats. Quite the opposite is, indeed, happening. The ruling party is leaving no stone unturned to win electoral contests in several states. Nothing is sacred in the contest which has assumed the character of warfare by other means. In consequence, relations between the BJP and the opposition have grown to become bitter, hateful and adversarial to an unprecedented degree. You could blame Rajiv Gandhi for many things, but he had the grace to allow the opposition space in Punjab and Assam as a healing measure. Temperateness and moderation are not qualities you could expect from the present ruling side.

And yet, India scarcely can support Modi’s external and domestic brinkmanship. The economy is in a parlous state. There is little hope for economic recovery in the coming two years or so. The economy is not a mechanistic device to show prompt results with this or that policy corrective. Capital is a shy and skittish creature. It will burrow deep or fly for safety at the first hint of trouble. Coaxing back capital in the form of investments takes policy predictability, executive credibility and friendliness, and masses of cajoling and handholding. Not one of these benign factors is present today. Consumption is as capricious as capital. Indians traditionally are savers than spenders. They will clamp down on spending and consumption with the earliest dark cloud tainting the sky.

Indeed, storm clouds are gathering over India as a whole. The frontiers are imperilled because the Modi government favours shallow and showy tactics over sound strategy. Dependence on the United States for neighbourhood security has advanced to an extent as to list the Indian ship of state dangerously. Nevertheless, overestimating US support, sections of the government egregiously are spoiling for a two-front war with China and Pakistan which is madness in itself and which will indubitably bring the country to ruin.

While there is never a good time for conflict, this is about the worst to provoke one. Not only cannot the economy support long-drawn hostilities, India further is polarized on the subject of the Modi government. Intellectuals, the media, and a large section of the middle class have broken with Narendra Modi. The tensions between the ruling and opposition sides are so thick you could cut them with a knife. Minorities live in fear of the BJP and of terror of the extended Sangh Parivar. Not in a long while has the country appeared so intolerant and divided, and sadly, no one in the ruling dispensation has the sense to pause and take note of the mutilated landscape.

A terrible irony has taken grip of the nation. As the BJP wins state after state under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the country, in contrast, has grown weaker and less cohesive. As Modi burns the tarmac in his insatiable hunger for power (the papers, for example, run half-page advertisements of him every day; who pays for it: you and I), he may conceivably seize electoral longevity but he is certain to leave India damaged.

Too often in the past, extreme nationalism has led to total war. This is a fate India is tempting.