"Narayanan's replacement with a career diplomat comports with Chidambaram's reform agenda" Timothy Roemer

M.K. Narayanan's departure and Shivshankar Menon's appointment as National Security Adviser were further signals of Home Minister P. Chidambaram's “growing power relative to other foreign policy officials.”

A cable dated January 22, 2010 from United States Ambassador Timothy Roemer (244959: confidential) to Washington said that Mr. Narayanan's replacement by a career diplomat “lacking background in internal security, comports with Minister Chidambaram's reform agenda” — which is to consolidate all intelligence, internal security and counter-terrorism functions under a single entity that reported to him.

Mr. Roemer noted that Mr. Chidambaram appeared to be backed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “despite [the former] lacking a strong electoral base.” The envoy added: “However, Chidambaram's management style and rapid ascent to power has rubbed many within his own party the wrong way.”

Mr. Roemer said: “Menon's appointment [as NSA] 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 S.M. Krishna, thought to be largely a figurehead.”

Striking a positive note while discussing Mr. Menon, the cable said that while the career diplomat, the grandson of India's first Foreign Secretary, was “not reflexively pro-American,” he saw the strategic value of the U.S.-India relationship.

Mr. Roemer observed: “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.”