New Delhi: The familiar and disgraceful scramble has begun for a Narendra Modi-Donald Trump bilateral on the G-20 summit sidelines and it looks headed nowhere. The fact of the scramble robs any bilateral that may result at the last minute of any dignity and purpose. Modi would go to the bilateral burdened by the knowledge that Trump has done a favour by meeting him. The best that the Indian effort has produced so far is a Trump-Shinzo Abe meeting that, in the memorably scornful phrasing of the US national security advisor, John Bolton, “will transform at some point ... into a trilateral meeting” with Modi.

Who has brought about this rude collapse of India’s international standing? None other than Narendra Modi. Modi has proved an unmitigated disaster for the country’s geopolitics and geo-economics, especially geo-economics. The devaluation of India at G-20 is starkly manifested by the fact of Trump’s bilateral conferences with the presidents of Russia, Argentina, Turkey and South Korea, while a working meal has been arranged with the Chinese strongman, Xi Jinping. The most that India has obtained is a trilateral and a grudging one at that.

The point is not about a Trump-Modi meeting. Its absence symbolizes something else. The economic destruction of the country by the Narendra Modi regime is the real issue. Without demonetization and a deformed GST, the economy should have been doing fine. With business sentiments looking up and the feel-good factor in copious flow, NPAs may not have grown to their present mountainous levels. Domestic industry and foreign investors would have piled on pressure to ease manufacturing. This, in turn, would have forced accommodation between the ruling party and the opposition (with Manmohan Singh becoming an ally) for making industrial land acquisitions countrywide reasonably effortless. The opposition would have been supplied equal incentives as the regime to encourage manufacturing and claim competitive credit for new jobs created. Instead, you have the gloomy present where jobless growth has been compounded by employment shrinkages in such sectors as telecom which is having a ripple effect on other businesses.

Narendra Modi came to power on a plank of growth and development. Having failed to deliver, his party and he have embarked on a divisive campaign of muscular Hindutva in the states having elections. Completely superfluous issues are being raked. How is the Hyderabad Police Action of 1948 relevant to the Telangana election? In any case, did Sardar Patel, the moving spirit behind the action, belong to the BJP? The BJP was not even in existence then, nor its forerunner, the Jan Sangh, which was established three years later. Modi cannot own Patel just because he commissioned a statue of the Sardar. Divya Spandana got it just right with her cheeky comment about bird droppings.

Modi’s campaign during the recent elections full of hate speeches and incendiary insinuations not only reflects his political desperation; they also indicate that he has lost his way. The sense of being thoroughly and hopelessly lost perhaps dawned on him after the double disasters of demonetization and GST which terrified big business and drove a vast majority of MSMEs to the ground. Faced with large-scale unemployment and growth deficit on account of demonetization and GST, the Modi government has been pressuring the Reserve Bank to surrender reserves for loan melas to affected sectors. In other words, the country has to pay for Modi’s blunders. Reserves that preserve RBI standing in the world and constitute the source of economic confidence in India now face the threat of expropriation from the Modi government to facilitate his re-election in 2019. With the Indian economy becoming a plaything and electoral tool of Narendra Modi, who in the world will repose faith in India’s growth story? Why should anyone seriously consider India as an economic power? Why should Donald Trump spare five minutes for Modi who displays scarce concern for the Indian economy?

Even if a bilateral with Trump is squeezed in at the last moment, it cannot paper over the serious crisis in the Indian economy. Indeed, Trump will demand his pound of flesh at the bilateral. If the economy was doing well, Trump would have met Modi on more equal terms. And there existed a possibility of convincing him to be less protectionist towards India for a time with robust benefits flowing to the United States afterwards. Now, India’s conversations with Donald Trump depend on the good offices of Japan. What a fall.