Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

Interested parties are invited to comment.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Saturday, 25 February 2012

BBC News Channel first with live analysis of the demolition of Osama Bin Laden's compound

For a change, it was the BBC that started running this story today before anyone else. They called up when I was over visiting my parents but I had time to get home and change, ready for the car to drive me to the studio for a discussion with Anita McVey about the demolition by the Pakistani army and police of Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbotabad. Anita touched on the downturn in US-Pakistan relations that ensued. Footage had still not come in from Pakistan at 8.30pm London time nor had any kind of report - which is where the live studio analysis comes into its own. Once the footage starts rolling in, then we complement it.

I was impressed this week to see the Pakistani foreign minister , the gorgeous Hina Rabbani Khar, up close in press conference with her British counterpart, William Hague. She referred to her then forthcoming meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the London Somalia summit, and was unequivocal about Pakistan's sovereignty. Her voice is deeper than I had imagined it would be and she speaks with surety.

The questions were carefully choreographed by Hague's press secretary but I was tickled when someone addressed a question to both foreign ministers and Khar had a joke at Hague's expense; answering that she would go first "to give him time to think." In gentlemanly fashion, he did not rise to the bait.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Laya Lina Book Launch for "Sonia Gandhi;" Text of speech of David Nash from JX Corporation

The only non-Japanese Board member of JX Corporation, David Nash, was one of my speakers at the 15 Feb launch. I will write about the evening separately but here is the text of David's speech. Note please his observations on the difference between statesmen and politicians.

Ladies and Gentleman

I am somewhat humbled by being asked to say a few words at Rani’s book launch

I say this partly out of my admiration for the workmanship that has gone in to compiling this book- something I could never match- but also the recognition that many of you probably know India and the accomplishments of Sonia Gandhi better than I do

But as Rani’s friend I was happy to accept her invitation and also take this opportunity to celebrate her achievement.

Any first biography is a momentous task. If Rani had chosen to say something about Churchill she would have found over 73 previous biographies and papers on his life to refer to. In this sense every first biographer is in a way a pioneer that provides a platform for others to delve into more detail. It is therefore, I am sure, an important work that will be referred to time and time again in the future.

I also congratulate Rani on finding a style of writing that doesn’t make it a Wikipedia-type compilation but instead a page-turning narrative on the life of a remarkable individual

I read a lot of the book on planes- as they are great places to be a little contemplative – free from mobile communications and after completing this book half way across the world last week, two thoughts stuck in my mind that I thought I might share with you.

One was about India then and India now. As I read through the chapters I realised how perceptions of a country change over time. In my twenties I regarded India as problematic- wasn’t it Bernard Levin who described it once as ‘another disgruntled colony’! How different we all see India today. No one would contemplate labelling it as stuck in its Imperial past. It has become, by its sheer size and energy, a prominent Superpower

And quite remarkably it was during this staggering period of change that Sonia Gandhi found herself obliged, by circumstance, to move from mother and family former to one of the most prominent individual in Indian politics. It was a job neither she nor Rajiv could ever have imagined she would have to take on.

The job was demanding enough for her Mother-in-Law, one can hardly imagine the day to day demands it must place on someone not born into political life and who the BJP and others readily ridiculed as a foreigner. It is a measure of her success that such comment about her today seems out of place as much as talking about the German and Greek ancestry of our marvellous Royal family

Whenever we chose to read a biography we always find in it something that talks to our own life experiences. In a far less demanding way than hers, I have spent the last twenty years trying to make executive decisions in a foreign culture- and like her with an accent that sometimes is the source of comment.

And again like Sonja Ghandi, decisions have had to be made using a consensual style that rarely pleases the crowd; patience instead of immediate action; options instead of simple solutions and humility instead of bravado. The difference in these responses is in my mind the difference between a Politician and Statesman. Rani’s book clearly shows how, over time, Sonia Gandhi matured into the latter.

If you are interested in India it is essential reading

Well done Rani…..my only question now is ‘what next’?

David Nash

London, 15th February 2012

Friday, 10 February 2012

My review of a cultural biography of Barack Obama

Dinesh Sharma was up against tough competition when he decided to write a biography of President Barack Obama given the hundreds already published. But he has taken a completely different angle to everyone else; focussing hard on the first 18 years of Obama's life and really studying the seminal influences of what happened in Hawai'i and Indonesia. He interviewed Obama's sister and many others involved with Obama's early years and adolescence to present an easy to digest, well researched biography that's an easy read and respectfully references other Obama biographers in the text. He's also very lucid in interview. He spent a few years in his research, which seems to be the norm for bios of major political leaders -except where a publisher like mine wants to maintain their reputation of being first off the block with their subject!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

15 Feb 2012 Book Launch at the Exclusive Laya Lina Privee, Knightsbridge

With the kind permission of the owner we have exclusive use of this select lounge bar with pretty aquaria in a cosy luxury setting in Knightsbridge, a stone's throw from Harrods (it is the preferred venue for Harrods staff functions).

The book launch series has provided different dream events, each with its own flavour and constituency.

One of the speakers at Laya Lina Privee on February 15 2012 is Lynne McAlister, who writes for American in Britain magazine. Lynne is on the Board of Directors of the American Women's Club of London and the Board of Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas. Since the book is published by an American house for an American readership in the first instance, it was important to remember that constituency this time around. So we have some important Americans in London coming along.

David Nash, Executive Officer and Board Member, JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration Corporation, Japan's largest natural resource company, is also going to speak. He is the only non-Japanese member of his board.

When I was doing some live performing for charities like UNICEF in the early nineties, organised and directed by Vanessa and the late Corin Redgrave, I learnt that serious themes could be highlighted with a mix of poetry and music. So it was my wish for tenor George Anthony to consider what appropriate songs would capture aspects of the book and my subject's life; despair, hope, salvation, and her love for India.

I am delighted with his moving selection and am really looking forward to the event. There is an interesting, eclectic audience, with a preponderance of defence and military experts from the British side.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

"Sonia Gandhi" now in the library of the Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi

Former director of the Indian parliament library, Frank Christopher, emailed me to say that the biography has been highlighted in the "new arrivals" section of the library of the prestigious Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi.

This is a great place for its members and a cool hangout for upper middle class Delhi-ites and their visitors.

The restaurants are quite comfortable; I've eaten Chinese and European food there. The Habitat centre holds talks and also houses several office complexes.

You can stay there, it has rooms for hire, and there is a gym which is used not only by Harrie, the husband of my friend, artist and teacher Sujata Singh, but also by Robert Vadra, husband of Priyanka Gandhi, who arrives with his security entourage whenever he trains.

Harrie travels a lot but when he is in Delhi, he tends to use the gym every day after work before going home for dinner. When I was staying with them Harrie would regale us at meal-time with stories of the aforementioned arriving on some expensive motorbike or in a four-wheeler, and how he liked to discuss new toys-usually his own. Harrie said that the Habitat Centre's facilities are so popular that when the aforementioned's security personnel are in attendance with their vehicles it causes a problem for other Habitat users as it is hard to find a parking place.


The Indian Republic Day evening function this year was held at the Sheraton Park Lane. Those who had been to the Australia Day event too told me the latter was bigger.
I noticed a lot of defence officials from the various embassies with the hearty British army types swopping fighter aircraft memories with their Indian counterparts.

When asked about the Typhoon deal, one of the British said, "The Indians would be advised to go for the deal where the risk is spread."
The Indian army officer standing in front of him said nothing.

A few days later, the news broke. The advice was clearly ignored.