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DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS, DRL, DS/IP/SCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/21/2020 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, KDEM, KNNP, PK, IN, PINR SUBJECT: MENON APPOINTED NEW NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

REF: NEW DELHI 77

Classified By: Political Counselor Uzra Zeya for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon was appointed India's new National Security Advisor on January 22. M.K. Narayanan's departure from the post signals the end of a bureaucratic tussle with Home Minister Chidambaram for authority over internal security. Menon will oversee a leaner portfolio drawing from his extensive diplomatic experience with Pakistan, China, and the United States, leaving Chidambaram with greater control over intelligence and internal security. Former Department of Atomic Energy Chairman Anil Kakodkar may also be brought into the Prime Minister's Office to advise on nuclear issues, also previously overseen by Narayanan. Menon's his depth of experience and knowledge of issues important to the United States should bring greater long-term strategic vision to the UPA-II government in tackling the critical foreign policy issues it faces. END SUMMARY.

Shivshankar Menon: Experience and Loyalty Rewarded - - -

2. (C) Menon is among India's most experienced career diplomats, having served as ambassador or high commissioner in China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Israel. He also served as Joint Secretary for External Relations at the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), where he was the Ministry of External Affairs' advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission. The grandson of India's first Foreign Secretary, Menon is a Chinese and German speaker and comes from a family of career diplomats. Menon superseded twelve more senior colleagues to be appointed Foreign Secretary in October 2006, highly controversial move in India's seniority-based bureaucracy. He went on to serve in the post through July 2009 during a critical period when India concluded the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States.

3. (C) Menon is loyal to Prime Minister Singh and an important voice on dialogue with Pakistan. Menon's mandatory retirement from the Indian Foreign Service in July 2009 at age 60, was clouded in controversy stemming from the Prime Minister's politically damaging July 2009 joint statement with Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani in Sharm Al-Sheikh. The joint statement was read in India as de-linking dialogue with Pakistan from progress on counterterrorism, and acquiescing to allegations of Indian support for separatists in Baluchistan. Menon's admission of a ""drafting error"" was viewed as an effort to take the fall and deflect blame from Prime Minister Singh. Menon has stayed out of the press during the six months since his retirement as Foreign Secretary, but contacts report that he has been briefed regularly on Pakistan at the highest levels of government.

4. (C) Erudite and polished, Menon is an intellectually formidable, pragmatic, eloquent proponent of India's national interest and well known to the U.S. officials. His tenure as Foreign Secretary, serving under then-External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, coincided with an unprecedented transformation in India's relationship with the United States, despite Menon having never served in or spent considerable time in the United States. He sees the strategic value of the U.S.-India relationship, but is not reflexively pro-American. He took a hard line on a variety of issues over the course of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement negotiations, including at a critical moment during the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) deliberations, but also skillfully piloted critical decisions through the Indian bureaucracy. He expressed surprise that the FBI role in the investigation into the 26/11 Mumbai attacks did not generate more controversy, but thus reassured, later advocated a more robust cooperative relationship on counterterrorism. Whatever his personal views, Menon is now invested in the

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success of the U.S.-India relationship and will be a formidable advocate for the relationship working directly under Prime Minister Singh.

The Portfolio: Reverting to Tradition

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5. (C) Menon's appointment marks a return to tradition for the NSA post, both by virtue of the experience he brings to the office and the responsibilities he will undertake in it. Menon will be the fourth NSA since the office was created in 1998, and the third former Foreign Secretary to hold the post. As such, government insiders expect him to play a role more akin to the Prime Minister's senior diplomatic advisor, focusing on key strategic relationships with China, Pakistan, and the United States. He will likely play a key role on dialogue with Pakistan and take over as the Prime Minister's Special Interlocutor on border issues with China. It is noteworthy that Menon's tenure in Islamabad was marked by an upswing in bilateral ties and progress in the Composite Dialogue, and his time in China heralded improved economic and political ties with India.

6. (C) Menon will hold the rank of Minister of State and will take on a more focused portfolio than his predecessor. Menon's diplomatic experience stands in contrast to outgoing NSA Narayanan, who came to the post following a lengthy career in intelligence and with close ties to Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi. Outgoing NSA Narayanan told the Ambassador during a private meeting on January 15 (reftel) that Menon would not retain dominance on the full range of strategic issues, including defense, space, intelligence, and India's nuclear programs. Former Director for Atomic Energy Anil Kakodkar is reportedly joining PMO in a new position advising on atomic energy and nuclear security, while a new position is also being created in PMO to advise on space issues.

Internal Security: Making Way for Reform

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7. (C) Narayanan's departure is viewed as a strategic victory for Home Minister Chidambaram, who has tussled with the outgoing NSA over bureaucratic reforms Chidambaram viewed as critical in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Congress Party General Secretary and Gandhi family insider Digvijay Singh told PolCouns that the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) all currently report to the PMO through Narayanan. Since his visit to the National Counter-Terrorism Center in Washington in November 2009, Chidambaram has made several speeches and press statements expressing his desire to consolidate all intelligence, internal security, and counterterrorism functions under a single entity that reports to him, rather than to the NSA. Narayanan's departure and replacement by a career diplomat with exemplary diplomatic credentials, but lacking background in internal security, comports with Minister Chidambaram's reform agenda. It also may signal a new, more vigorous approach to internal security threats such as Naxalites/Maoists and to the ongoing acute threat of jihad-inspired terrorism, led by the Home Ministry.

Comment

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8. (C) Narayanan's departure and Menon's appointment are further signals of Home Minister Chidambaram's growing power relative to other foreign policy officials. In late 2009, the Home Ministry unilaterally announced changes to tourist visa requirements, usually the domain of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which left MEA scrambling to cope with the ambiguous new regulations and media fall-out. Minister Chidambaram appears to be backed by the Prime

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Minister, despite lacking a strong electoral base. However, Chidambaram's management style and rapid ascent to power has rubbed many within his own party the wrong way. With media reporting that Vice President Ansari advocates Parliamentary oversight on intelligence (rather than the Home Ministry), Chidambaram still has challenges to overcome in implementing his reform agenda. Menon's appointment also signals that the Prime Minister's Office will remain the focal point for key strategic relationships at the expense of the Ministry of External Affairs under Minister S.M. Krishna, thought to be largely a figurehead. Prime Minister Singh has reportedly summoned the entire cabinet to a dinner January 23 to fete Narayanan and present Menon as his successor, signaling an importance in India's foreign policy establishment that belies Menon's sub-ministerial rank. Menon's his depth of experience and knowledge of issues important to the United States should bring greater long-term strategic vision to the UPA-II government in tackling the critical foreign policy issues it faces.

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