New Delhi: It is not always the case that a president or prime minister who enjoys good domestic political relations will succeed in geopolitics. He or she mostly may but not all the time. You do not have to travel far to check the validity of this proposition. Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed stable domestic political relations. This did not translate to stable and peaceful geopolitics. Indeed, the war with China ruined his relations with the Communist Party of India which eventually split on the tragedy.

But it is unambiguously the case that a head of government who has a divisive reputation and track record domestically and is on terms of bitter animosity with the opposition has absolutely no hope for stable and progressive geopolitics. See the geopolitical mess Donald Trump has landed America in. His battles with his own cabinet colleagues are a reflection of his megalomania and divisive personality which also project internationally. Trump has no equation with America’s West European allies; the US establishment and he cannot see eye to eye on Vladimir Putin and Russia; and his America First policy neither benefits America nor the world.

Or consider the Trump doppelganger Narendra Modi, whose poisonous domestic political relations have radiated abroad and eroded India’s geopolitical standing. After losing two crucial Lok Sabha bi-elections in Uttar Pradesh and with the prospect of a former alliance partner supporting a no-confidence motion against his government, Modi has consulted his cabinet colleagues for suggestions to contain the political turmoil. Previously, he passed orders to Amit Shah who executed them. Cabinet colleagues were treated with contempt. Few of his colleagues have a good word to say about Modi. They sneer behind his back and three of them are in the race to replace him should the BJP fall short of a majority in next year’s general election.

When a prime minister cannot get along with his cabinet colleagues, how can he possibly get along with the rest of the world? India’s relations with China and Pakistan are the worst ever in recent years. After confronting China in Doklam which is foreign territory, India desperately is trying to make up by selling the Tibet movement and the Dalai Lama short. China is not going to be assuaged; it will demand two pounds of flesh where earlier it should have hesitated to seek any. The same holds true for Pakistan. Having semi-militarized the conflict with Pakistan on Kashmir, Modi cannot pull back without losing ground. The persecution of each other’s diplomats is also an outcome of Modi’s aggressive power play. Once a provoker, Pakistan is now playing victim. Modi sought to make India in Pakistan’s hard image and India is paying the price.

Move beyond Pakistan and China and the scenario is not very different. In the same manner that Modi is exclusionary in domestic politics, he is trying to make geopolitics “mukt” of Pakistan and China, and he is spectacularly failing. The latest casualty of his exclusionist foreign policy is relations with Iran. India announced with great fanfare the opening of a new trade route to Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar port excluding Pakistan. Days ago, however, the Iranians dropped a bombshell, offering the port facility to Pakistan and China and added for good measure that Iran would not conduct foreign relations in any way detrimental to Pakistan. The blame for the Iranian snub goes to Modi.

India is in no position to impose a segregationist geopolitics on the world. Possibly only the US may get away with this but not as successfully as prior. On the other hand, China at least makes a pretence of taking everybody along in its Belt and Road Initiative, and its offer is difficult to resist for countries backed with cash. In desiring to take the whole world on board, China displays geopolitical confidence. On the other hand, Modi has made India’s geopolitics narrow and us-versus-them. It is a pure reflection of his domestic politics. A. B. Vajpayee, coming from the same political background as Modi, was, however, so contrastingly open and magnanimous. His geopolitics engendered trust and belonging.

It is a truism, of course, that Vajpayee and Narendra Modi are very different politicians. Vajpayee ran India’s largest coalition government at the Centre and he had friends across the political spectrum. He never spoke of “Congress-mukt Bharat” or tried to isolate Pakistan or gratuitously confront China, believing geography trumped every other consideration. Narendra Modi embraces nationalism too intensely to take along others. His geopolitics is a reflection of his domestic politics, and their peculiarities and narrow natures are scarcely likely to survive him.