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Updated: August 30, 2011 11:08 IST

M.K. Narayanan did not go voluntarily: Timothy Roemer

Mukund Padmanabhan
Comment (11)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

The Home Minister needs someone "to put a bit in his mouth" M.K. Narayanan

Did M.K. Narayanan “jump”? Or was he “pushed”? U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer found the former National Security Adviser's suggestion that “he sought to depart … somewhat unconvincing, given the NSA's assiduous cultivation of senior USG [United States Government] contacts through the end of 2009.” Mr. Narayanan was appointed Governor of West Bengal on January 16, 2010.

In a cable sent on January 15, 2010 (243925: confidential) to the Secretary of State's office in Washington and copied to U.S. embassies around the world, Mr. Roemer said that during a private meeting a day before his appointment as Governor, the NSA dodged a question on whether he was departing voluntarily. Mr. Narayanan had replied that he had had a “great run” in his five years as NSA and that he had discussed a possible move with the Prime Minister as early as in June 2009. When Mr. Roemer specifically asked whether his perceived rivalry with Home Minister P. Chidambaram had contributed to the departure, Mr. Narayanan quipped that the Home Minister at times needed someone “to check him and put a bit in his mouth.”

Congress general secretary and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh was more candid about Mr. Narayanan's exit. Mr. Roemer's cable stated that Mr. Singh told the Political Counsel of the Embassy that a “turf battle” between Mr. Narayanan and Home Minister P. Chidambaram over which of them has “primary intelligence and counter-terrorism responsibilities” was a reason for his impending departure.

Mr. Digvijay Singh said that while the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing and the Central Bureau of Investigation all reported to Mr. Narayanan, himself a former chief of the IB, “Chidambaram was bent on consolidating all intelligence, internal security and counterterrorism functions in a single entity that reported to him.” A second reason for Mr. Narayanan's exit, according to Mr. Digvijay Singh, was his age. (Mr. Narayanan was 76 when he was appointed Governor of West Bengal.)

While refusing to speculate on who would succeed him, Mr. Narayanan told Mr. Roemer that whoever took the job would have “a reduced portfolio with the future NSA no longer retaining dominance on the full range of strategic issues, including defense, space, intelligence, and India's nuclear programs.” While he would not confirm whether he would accept a governorship, or if he had sought it, Mr. Narayanan observed that West Bengal had “every imaginable challenge,” including border problems, counter-terrorism issues, naxalites and chronic underdevelopment.

The cable noted with a touch of regret that his departure “presents a challenge to moving forward swiftly on our agenda in India.” Describing him as a strong backer of the U.S.-India relationship” it said he “served as a key conduit to the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi” who “could bang heads within the Indian bureaucracy to move issues of interest with us.”

It stated that the three leading contenders to succeed Mr. Narayanan were former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon (who got the job), the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Climate Change, Shyam Saran, and the former Ambassador to the United States, Ronen Sen. The cable noted: “While Menon did take the fall for the Prime Minister's politically disastrous July 2009 joint statement at Sharm [Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt] with Pakistani PM [Yusuf Raza] Gilani, he is seen as a loyal and highly experienced diplomat.”

What these leaked cables show that the US diplomats were doing the job well that they are supposed to do. That is to take pulse of the country, its politics, financial and the intelligence.After all that is the function of Embassy. It is not a cultural institute and based on its observations and comments, US plans its policy. I would hope that the Indian counterparts are also doing their job diligently. What is remarkable is the acute perceptions and accurate analysis of the political scene in India by these diplomats.They in many cases have presented better picture than Indian Press and TV.

from:  Vinod Bansal
Posted on: Mar 19, 2011 at 02:03 IST

I feel sorry for Mrs Clinton and all these ambassadors. It must be so embarrassing to have private communications out in the open like this. All things considered, though it wasn't that bad. The US is doing a good job of keeping track of what is going on in India and the rest of the world. I hope our ambassadors are doing an equally good job.

from:  Thomas
Posted on: Mar 19, 2011 at 01:21 IST

India borrows heavily from the coffer of the IMF. The USA is a principal contributor to the IMF and has the maximal voting rights. So the USA tries to keep India under a firm control. Nothing unusual in it. India has to buy 80% of its requirement of petroleum from the Arab countries with orthodox Islamic rulers. Therefore the most anti-Muslim Hindu state governments do not prevent construction of large mosques, which are built according to the inappropriate desert architecture. Can I refuse the proposal of my pretty daughters' marriage with the son of a moneylender, to whom my house has been heavily mortgaged?

from:  Dr. Ajoy Bhattacharjya
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 21:29 IST

Wikileaks of Country cables alteast gives us a insight how the system of US consulates and embassy works and is responsible for the state affairs.At least it shows us they are really working and updating current affairs to home country not like other consulates just relaxing in foreign countries.

from:  Laxman
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 19:56 IST

Was it right for Mr. Digvijay Singh, a very senior Congress leader, to tell an American diplomat that 'Chidambaram was bent on consolidating all intelligence, internal security and counterterrorism functions in a single entity that reported to him'? Mr.Singh's disclosure shows that too cozy a relationship existed between him and the diplomat. Foreign diplomats succeed in influencing our government's policies and actions only if influential political leaders in our country are befriended and their cooperation obtained. It takes two to tango! Let us not criticise the Americans alone if they succeed in making our goverment do what they want.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 18:13 IST

Why does US of America has to Poke nose in every country's matter? And to make it worse - leak these 'Confidential' documents to media/wiki. The Q is was the first problem more severe or the second?

from:  Animesh Gupta
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 16:35 IST

Reading the WikiLeaks, I am surprised that so many Govt. officials and party officials (including those not from the ruling party) had talked so candidly to foreign diplomats who certainly know more about the inner most secrets of the Govt than the public.

from:  krishna
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 16:12 IST

The consolidation of all internal security units under one umrella was not an easy task for anyone to bring about especially in a country like India known very much for its 'bureaucratic-nepotistic' power houses sometimes very much based on one individual rather than on a department. After the Mumbai terrorist attack and the Sri Lankan massacre of innocent Tamil people it became clear that individuals like M.K. Narayanan had to leave. The dragging of Kashmir as a security zone rathar than an integral part of India for over 50 years must have also put off MKN as NSA. P Chidambaram has set a pace for institutional role rather than individual role, which he quite also did successfully in the Ministry of Finance. P.Chidambaram may not have a large electrol following in his home state of Tamilnadu but he has the support of the ruling DMK as a whole for his ability to bring about changes and put in place benchmarks for flow of authority and accountability. He seems to also have the 'indirect' support of the BJP. When he tendered his resignation after 70 parapolice forces were killed by the maoists,the opposition came quick to his support and said that he should not resign.

from:  Richard Kamalanathan
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 14:45 IST

It is akin to that of former USSR relations with Indian politicians and bureaucrats. There was a rumour going that South Indian bureaucrats would go to Moscow and marry a Russian lady and become monarch of the Public Sector Units. That time we were bedfellows with the Russians and postliberation and fall of USSR our people find solace in American company.

from:  C Deekshitulu
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 13:09 IST

The most striking aspect of these cables is the extremely close - almost bed-partner like - relationship between the United States Government and that of India. The US Embassy seems to be the Big Brother with a patient ear to all the woes and worries of the Government. No surprise then, that the USG is more conversant with the happenings within the Indian political scene than the Indian electorate itself.

from:  Jude DSouza
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 10:42 IST

Mr Narayanan a career sleuth gets jettisoned because of his age (76). Many of our Chief Ministers ( Karunananidi), Prime Ministers (Morarji Desai/ AB Vajpayee/ Dr Singh) and other political heavy weights under the same rule should have been cashiered a long time ago.

from:  Mani Sandilya
Posted on: Mar 18, 2011 at 07:43 IST
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