New Delhi: The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has turned grim. In comparison, the situation was only worse in the early-1990s. There are also differences from that era which add up to make a dark total. Never before did the Indian Army come under such concerted and determined attacks from terrorists, and since the army is fully vigilant against internal and cross-border strikes, their rising numbers convey a troublesome message. A quasi-strategic assault is underway against India in Jammu and Kashmir. The assault is being carried out under the nuclear overhang. And Narendra Modi has opened so many fronts at the same time that he is unable to devote himself to the deteriorating situation on the western border, whose hapless residents facing relentless Pakistani artillery fire recall the situation during the 1971 war.

With the exception of Amit Shah, possibly Arun Jaitley, and a handful of his junior ministers and senior bureaucrats, Narendra Modi does not enjoy a steady and stable equation with anyone else in the political establishment. The bulk of his cabinet would be relieved if he does not return as prime minister in 2019. At least two of them are positioning themselves as his moderate replacements. Modi’s savage attack on the Congress and especially the Gandhi family has destroyed the political unity the country so direly needs at a time of grave external threats from Pakistan and China. With both India’s long-term adversaries, relations have plunged to the extent that war on the north-eastern or western border is perilously close to breaking out. The BJP’s NDA allies, meanwhile, are upset with Modi and have swelled the opposition chorus against his government.

Since geo-economics is leading over pure geopolitics at this time, a runaway Indian growth story would have offset to some extent the deteriorating external situation. With all its problems, China continues to attract the West. Western leaders look for solutions to their problems from China, which is known to drive hard bargains. This in turn translates into geopolitical heft. But since Narendra Modi ordered the disastrous demonetization, followed by an extortionate GST, the LTCG tax on equities, and protectionist measures covering a wide spectrum of products and services from investments in domestic bourses to imports, the Indian market has suddenly turned unattractive for the world. Regulatory policies change every other month, there is no stability for long-term planning, and business sentiment has turned deeply pessimistic. To all the other fronts that Narendra Modi has opened, he has added one more: This is the bloody-minded destruction of the Indian economy. India is tottering under Narendra Modi.

In the late-1980s and early-1990s, the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet Union produced an existential crisis for India in Kashmir and Punjab. Voices were raised within India and outside that India would break along its Kashmir and Punjab faultlines, each infested with cross-border terrorism. There was no external support to Pakistan’s terrorist aggression at that time. The United States was Pakistan’s principal ally, and it turned a blind eye to Pakistani depredations in Kashmir. The United States is no longer Pakistan’s ally, and it has periodically urged Pakistan to neutralize terrorist groups that target India and Afghanistan. Since the US needs Pakistan in Afghanistan, it cannot do more. Be that as it may, Pakistan has revealed a new daring in the Kashmir attacks which point to a strategic backer other than the US, and it could only be China. Narendra Modi made much of the “surgical strikes”. It has had the effect of making Pakistan positively audacious in Jammu and Kashmir.

There is an old saying that war is too important to be left to generals. Narendra Modi has neglected the security situation too long in the expectation that the army will produce miracles. No army can. Political objectives form the core of security and strategy. Political objectives have to drive relations with Pakistan and China and the military is only one of several instruments to achieve those objectives. India is worse off geopolitically than it was when Modi became prime minister. Every day, the situation is slipping a little more out of India’s hands.