Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BoI Power List 2012: Shiv Shankar Menon is 2nd most powerful bureaucrat

Menon with PM
IS India’s second most powerful bureaucrat a Chinese speaking person? You may say so, jokingly. National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon’s mother tongue is Malayalam but he speaks Chinese as fluently as someone from north of the McMohan Line. He speaks German too. But his ability to speak multiple languages does not qualify him to be powerful. BoI has chosen this ultra-low profile diplomat to be India’s second most powerful bureaucrat because…
he has remained at the core of India’s security and diplomacy at least for the last six years.
Menon, a 1972-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, had earlier worked as ambassador to China, high commissioner to Pakistan, and had also served in countries such as Israel, Austria, Japan and Sri Lanka. In 2006, he became India’s foreign secretary replacing Shyam Saran, a 1970 batch IFS officer. Ironically, Saran who later became PM’s special envoy left the PMO when Menon was made national security adviser at the rank of a minister of state. Saran then held the rank of a secretary, a notch lower.
During the Indo-US nuclear deal, Menon did a commendable job when he convinced Nuclear Suppliers Group to get a waiver for nuclear supplies to India. After that milestone, then NSA MK Narayanan was made a governor and Menon was given the coveted post of NSA.
When he knew his batch-mate from IAS, GK Pillai was an efficient home secretary tackling internal security quite effectively, he did not poke his nose much into the internal affairs. He first concentrated more on external security aspects emphasizing on the exercise of scenario building for the next many years. In scenario building, you assume things and analyze what India should do under various circumstances. Say, a part of Bangladesh goes under sea because of climate change. Or Pakistan hurls nuclear bomb against India.
The economic side including energy security finds prominence when Menon analyses national security. A great believer of a friendly neighbourhood, Menon constantly takes stock whether we are becoming too dependent on China or any other developed nation for that matter.
Today, Menon is the key man in major internal and external security matters. In key security issues, his word is the final for everyone including cabinet secretary, principal secretary to PM and home secretary.
In fact, diplomacy has been in Menon’s genes. His father Parappil Narayana Menon was also a diplomat who rose to become ambassador to Yugoslavia. India's first foreign secretary KPS Menon was his grandfather. Another KPS Menon (junior), who became India’s ambassador to China, was his uncle.
An alumnus of Scindia School, Menon spends some quality time listening to classical music.

PM’s additional private secretary shifted
The government has “relaxed rules” to appoint Ms Tapasya Obhrai Nair, presently posted as additional private secretary to Prime Minister, to the post of deputy secretary in the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, New Delhi for a period of four years. Ms Nair is a Deputy Commandant level officer in Central Industrial Security Force.

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