New Delhi: Bipin Rawat’s most recent communal utterances bring disgrace to the distinguished post and rank he holds. By far he is the worst army chief this country has had the contemporary misfortune to suffer. He superseded two others to head the army. He has daily multiplied the evidence that the supersession was one of Narendra Modi’s several blunders. Since they share a common communal outlook, perhaps Modi finds nothing questionable about Rawat’s poisonous outbursts from time to time. However, they will add to the divisions of the country and make India’s national security a bigger nightmare than it already is.

A country is only as strong as it is internally united. The old faultlines from Partition should have erased in the decades that followed but the opposite may have happened at least in large parts of the country. The minoritarianism of the Congress party played into the majoritarianism of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Narendra Modi loves power awfully much to concede early advantage to the Congress. With disaster facing him in the politico-economic and national security/ geopolitical realms, polarization remains his only option for 2019. Bipin Rawat’s communal statements must be seen in that light.

The press carries a timid hope that the Modi government will censure Rawat. But why should it when he is advancing its communal agenda? This is not the first time Rawat has spoken to excess. If he should have been ordered to zip his mouth at the first instance, the subsequent outrages would have been avoided. Clearly no one in authority shut him up. And, of course, we now have proof of it. The defence minister, a nonstarter called Nirmala Sitaraman, refused point-blank to condemn Rawat’s poison. Sitaraman is a cipher like all the other ministers of Modi. She knows where Rawat draws his powers from. She knows she is a nominal minister and she does what she is told. To compare her to Indira Gandhi would be monstrous to the memory of the country’s sole master strategist as PM.

On the long time scales of history, in any event, Sitaraman, Rawat and Narendra Modi are irrelevant. If they find a place in the trash heap of history, they should consider themselves lucky. Meanwhile, though, India is slipping geopolitically. China and Pakistan are acting in collusion in a manner unseen prior which could only have been provoked by the Modi government’s ill-considered jingoism and hyper-nationalism. Jingoism has been insanely coupled with complete absence of defence preparedness. The three services face critical gaps in strategic arms. The crisis indeed runs deeper because no grand strategy supports and meshes together the desired acquisitions for the simple reason that India does not have a grand strategy. Everything is ad hoc. Modi has mismanaged national security to the same degree that he has brought ruin to the economy. Acquisition orders are abruptly cancelled, the latest being for single-engine fighters. When Pakistan’s cross-border strikes slay Indian soldiers, the Modi government wakes up from its somnolence to place desperate orders for small arms. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Indian armed forces are largely disarmed today.

Arms, however, are one facet of defence. The weightiest factor is national unity. If the nation is not normatively united (as opposed to being emotionally whipped up to frenzy) India would be hard-pressed to counter the adversary. Society has been split today to the most extent in recent years. The Dalits and minorities run scared. They are being attacked and their patriotism is being questioned by pseudo-nationalists of the Sangh Parivar. The BJP brazenly has supported Rawat’s recent outburst. These are dark days and the political opposition has to act in concert to contain the damage to the nation.

The Modi government will go someday but the damage it will have caused by then will take years to reverse. Unless the opposition acts today, it will close options for the country in the immediate future. India’s national integrity and security are under grave threat from the communalism of the Narendra Modi government.