N ew Delhi: National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon had capitulated to Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram on intelligence issues soon after taking over his post, a diplomatic cable leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks says.
In the cable dated Feb 1, 2010, then US envoy Timothy J. Roemer observed: “While Menon is battling to preserve much of the territory and power of the NSA, he may well have capitulated to Chidambaram on some intelligence issues.”
Menon had taken over as the NSA on January 23, 2010 and Roemer had met him just five days later.
The cable confirms reports that Chidambaram had prevailed in the power tussle between the office of the NSA and home ministry on the issue of intelligence.
Roemer, in the cable, said he broached the reports that indicated a reformed and more narrow NSA structure was accurate. Menon, the then ambassador said, was blunt in asserting that his portfolio as NSA would remain “the same” as that of his predecessor M.K. Narayanan.
Narayanan had been shunted out as NSA to West Bengal as governor only a few days earlier in the same month that year after major differences of opinion between him and Chidambaram.
Roemer, in his comments on Menon’s blunt remarks, said his message and demeanor contrasted with that of two weeks ago when he told the ambassador “change is going to happen” and that he would focus more on strategic issues.
Menon appeared to be in the midst of an effort to consolidate his position and maximize his value to the prime minister, Roemer added in the cable.
Menon was critical of the media assumption that he would “be foreign secretary again”.
He clarified that as NSA he will “not be doing foreign policy,” but as the prime minister’s principal security adviser, he planned to take a more strategic view and advise the prime minister on whatever security issues the prime minister involved himself in, including regional security, nuclear issues, and defense.
He claimed the media has “overblown” the implications of Chidambaram’s proposed “structural reform” to set up an Indian version of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Menon suggested he would not busy himself with the day-to-day management of India’s intelligence services.
Roemer attempted to target several specific questions at his intelligence and nuclear roles, but he would not be drawn out on what this would mean for his role on these issues, the cable noted.