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Menon is new NSA, different role awaits him


New Delhi: Former foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon was named Thursday the new National Security Adviser (NSA), but unlike his predecessor M.K. Narayanan he would be looking at a leaner brief, government sources indicated.

That Menon was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s first preference was known, but a final decision on who would hold this key position was taken a couple of days back after consultations with the political leadership.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet Thursday cleared Menon’s name and formal orders will be issued by the department of personnel and training in a day, said a senior government official.

Menon, 60, will be in the rank of minister of state. He is likely to focus on the problems of diplomatic engagement rather than be involved in operational intelligence coordination, said sources.

This shift in emphasis has been necessitated after Home Minister P. Chidambaram unveiled a series of measures for revamping the country’s internal security architecture last month, indicating that he would be the internal security czar.

The new NSA brings in a wealth of experience having served as ambassador to China, Pakistan, Israel and Sri Lanka. He also played a crucial role along with Narayanan in accomplishing the India-US nuclear deal, ending the country’s isolation in the global nuclear arena.

With the NSA more engaged with strategic aspects of foreign policy, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is expected to drive the ministry of external affairs more intensely than before.

Narayanan, a former Intelligence Bureau chief who has now been appointed West Bengal governor, has been holding the prime post in the country’s security apparatus since January 2005. He exercised all functions relating to external and internal security and intelligence coordination.

Prominent international strategic affairs analyst K. Subrahmanyam has recently pointed out that much of the executive role for intelligence will shift out of the new NSA’s hands and so also internal security management, which will shift to the revamped home ministry.

“The NSA should continue to have his coordinating role in respect of internal security in order to apprise the National Security Council of the continuing developments in the internal security situation,” he has argued in an article.

“Shedding of various executive responsibilities and assuming an expanded coordinating role will make the NSA more effective and permit the prime minister to implement his strategic vision better.”