Former foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is emerging as the frontrunner for the post of National Security Advisor (NSA) with the government planning a new role for incumbent M.K.Narayanan who is likely to be appointed as West Bengal governor, well placed sources said.
According to sources in the know, the announcement regarding Narayanan's replacement is expected before Republic Day.
The Congress core committee is expected to meet on Friday evening to decide names of new governors to Raj Bhavans in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Maharashtra and Punjab governors have also completed their terms and could be replaced.
The Congress core committee that includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi, union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, A.K. Antony and Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president, will shortlist the names.
"A formal announcement will be made in a couple of days," said a top party functionary.
The names of former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who is currently special envoy of the prime minister, and former US ambassador Ronen Sen were also considered for the powerful post of NSA but the sources said Menon found favour with many including Narayanan himself.
Having served as India's envoy to China and Pakistan - both areas that will come under the purview of the NSA - Menon was the ideal candidate for the post, said government sources. A 1972 Indian Foreign Service(IFS) officer, Menon retired in July last year.
A major milestone in his career was the India-US nuclear deal, for which he worked hard to convince the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) nations to get a clean waiver for nuclear supplies to India.
Several top officials in the security establishment told IANS that Narayanan's appointment was linked to Home Minister P Chidambaram's plan to revamp the security structure in the country and bring internal security under his belt.
The home minister has already announced plans of setting up a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) by the year-end and this will result in a decline in the NSA's authority.
Under Chidambaram's scheme of things that he articulated at a meeting of Intelligence Bureau officers in December, the NCTC will be the nodal agency for counter-terrorism with analytical and operative wings.
"The Joint Intelligence Committee, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and other related agencies will report to the NCTC head," said a ministry official.
"If this happens, then the NSA, to whom the JIC, NTRO and ARC report, will lose his significance."
Narayanan, 76, who has had considerable say in the formulation of India's strategic doctrine and implementation of the foreign policy vision of the prime minister, has been the NSA since the death of J.N. Dixit in January 2005. He was brought out of retirement - he was heading the Intelligence Bureau in the late eighties - after the UPA government came to power.