New Delhi: In his desperation to be re-elected, Narendra Modi has hurled nuclear threats at Pakistan. In a campaign speech in Gujarat yesterday, Modi said according to the papers, “We have the mother of nuclear bombs.” He added, “I decided to tell them (the Pakistanis): do whatever you want to do but we will retaliate.”

In the wake of the Kargil War, the dictator who deposed the elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharief, Parvez Musharraf, indulged in the nuclear blackmail of India. After Nikita Khrushchev was sacked, the Soviet Union sobered down and began showing deep concern about the apocalyptic nature of nuclear weapons. Mao Zedong picked up where Khrushchev left by speaking irresponsibly about nuclear weapons. China has also largely calmed down as a nuclear power since although Taiwan resurrects the old intemperateness sometimes.

If you notice, it is usually dictators who flaunt nuclear weapons. To the end of his days, Harry Truman never reconciled in private to his decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the temptation came in the Korean War to employ nuclear weapons, Truman and his successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, both resisted it. Because an abhorrence of nuclear weapons had set in in the United States, Khrushchev’s insanity to stir the pot in Cuba in October 1962 so shocked and enraged Washington. Ultimately, Khrushchev’s periodic nuclear threats to the West, inter alia, convinced the Kremlin that he was unbalanced and had to go.

Narendra Modi is dictatorial but that he would go the way of bona fide past dictators and threaten an adversary with nuclear weapons still comes as something of a surprise. You make threats when you are weak and feel inferior. Pakistan falls in that category. India is not weak and it has no reason to feel inferior. So why is Narendra Modi emulating Pakistani dictators? Does Narendra Modi want power again so desperately that he is even willing to Pakistanize the general election?

And what is this about a “mother of all nuclear bombs”? Among nuclear devices so far tested, the thermonuclear bomb is the most destructive, with destructive yields going up to tens of megatons. India’s thermonuclear test in Pokhran II was a fizzle. Possibly India virtually has retested an H-bomb and found it works. It may be that or something else. But is this to be boasted about in an election rally, and further conveyed as a threat to Pakistan? Are there no limits to megalomania?

As prime minister, Narendra Modi has failed. Given the record of politicians in India and abroad, this is hardly exceptional. But Narendra Modi is putting India in harm’s way in his desperation to come back. His unstated argument seems to be that India must pay a price for letting him go. This is unacceptable. Prime ministers come and go. India is eternal. Narendra Modi is not India and India is not Narendra Modi.

To the Modi regime’s Balakot dissimulations are now added nuclear threats to Pakistan. Since Pakistan is also a nuclear power, those threats are meaningless. But the dissimulations are reminiscent of Pakistan’s own that the September 2016 cross-border strikes never occurred. Pakistan admitted to third countries on the quiet that the strikes produced casualties but less than the Indian claims. Lies don’t pay off in military operations as in life. India was generally perceived as a truthful, sober country before Narendra Modi’s ascent. Its massive strides in market economy, science and technology and so forth occurred with minimum fuss and publicity. It provided Modi the pretext to say nothing happened in the country before he became prime minister. The audacity of it is unbelievable. That can also be excused. Politicians are venal.

But Narendra Modi has crossed red lines by politicizing nuclear weapons and hurling threats at a neighbour. India is not an infirm dictatorship but a powerful and confident democracy with a great future ahead.