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

Sunday, 28 September 2014

US, Bangladesh Navy Commence CARAT Training

Dhaka Tribune Report (original text, not written by Rani Singh)

The fourth annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh exercise commenced with an opening ceremony at Naval Base Issa Khan on September 25, says a press release.
Continuing through September 30, CARAT Bangladesh 2014 consists of six days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security priorities, to develop relationships, and to enhance cooperation among participating forces.
   In its 20th year, CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the US Navy and the armed forces of nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
   “In just a few years, CARAT Bangladesh has become the premier engagement between our navies,” said Rear Admiral Charles Williams, Commander of Task Force 73 and US 7th Fleet’s executive agent for theater security cooperation in South Asia.
This year, the vessel USNS Safeguard, with a mobile diving and salvage unit, will join Bangladesh Navy ships including the former Hamilton-class cutter, BNS Somudro Joy and the frigate BNS Bangabandhu. Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 staff will embark Somudro Joy as part of a ship rider exchange. 
 For the first time, a Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will participate in CARAT Bangladesh alongside the Bangladesh Navy’s Dornier, taking naval aviation training to the next level and enhancing shared maritime domain awareness. 
“We are looking forward to going to sea with the Bangladesh Navy this year and training with their ships and aircraft in the Bay of Bengal,” said Captain Fred Kacher, Destroyer Squadron 7 Commodore.  “We expect to learn a great deal from them about operating in these vital waters, which connect our navies and our nations.” 
- See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2014/sep/28/us-bangladesh-navy-commence-carat-training#sthash.RpQ8ygai.dpuf

Monday, 1 September 2014


The Summit will open on 4 September and the Secretary General will put it in context at a doorstep scheduled for 9h35 local time.
It will start at 11h45 with the Secretary General and Prime Minister Cameron officially welcoming Heads of State and Government.
This will be immediately followed by an official family photo at 12h30.
The Summit will formally open with a meeting on Afghanistan at 13h00. The Allied Heads of State and Government will meet with 27 partner countries including ISAF contributors (Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name), Tonga, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates), countries from the region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan) as well as Japan. High level representatives of the United Nations and the European Union will also attend.
The second meeting on 4 September will start at 16h45 and will be a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. President Poroshenko of Ukraine has been invited.
Heads of State and Government will then attend a working dinner in Cardiff which will start at 20h30.
On 5 September, the 28 leaders will hold two sessions of the North Atlantic Council. The first session will take place at around 9h30. The second session will start around 13h00.
NATO Defence and Foreign Ministers will attend the Summit and hold parallel meetings.
On 4 September at 14h15, NATO Foreign Ministers will meet their counterparts from the four aspirant countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name).
At 16h30 NATO Defence Ministers will meet their counterparts from 24 partner countries which cooperate with NATO on interoperability. The format will be 28 Allied Defence Ministers and Ministers from the following partner countries: Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name), Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.
Two separate working dinners will take place in Cardiff for Foreign Ministers (2010 start) and Defence Ministers (1930 start). A separate dinner with partner countries will take place at Celtic Manor, starting at 20h00.
On 5 September at 9h30, Foreign Ministers will hold consultations with the EU, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Didier Burkhalter), the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (Thorbjørn Jagland) and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (Catherine Ashton) are invited.
On 5 September at 11h00, NATO Defence Ministers will meet with their counterparts from Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan and Sweden, to discuss enhanced opportunities for cooperation.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Watching Reena and Rami Ranger

I am watching the rise of Reena and Rami Ranger on the London scene. They make a really interesting father-daughter pair. Both have a natural air, a Punjabi wholeheartedness and business acumen. But there’s still something quite down to earth about them.

Recently, Rami Ranger MBE, FRSA, Chairman, Sun Mark Ltd won an unprecedented fifth consecutive Queen's Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

Prime Minister David Cameron visited the headquarters of Sun Mark Ltd. in Greenford on Friday 18th July 2014 to present the award.

Rami Ranger connects Britain to 115 countries through trade.

He built his empire in the UK from the ground up. His son-in-law Harmeet Ahuja is the Sun Mark CEO.

Dr. Ranger oftentimes pays tribute to his mother; he says she taught him the values which have been the bedrock of his success. She brought Rami and  his siblings up to be wholesome people despite having lost her husband during the partition of India and despite having to live in abject poverty in a refugee camp. 

Reena Ranger is making a name for herself by expending energy in the right sort of ways if public service is her goal.

She has worked very hard and is now a councillor. She’s Dr. Rami Ranger’s eldest daughter and Chairwoman-Founder of the social organisation, Women Empowered. She worked for the family business from a young age and learnt to deal with all aspects of the company under the guidance and support of her father.

What is unusual about Reena is that she is steadily and consistently creating formats through Women Empowered for people to connect and to learn. The sessions always incorporate a questions and answer session where the questions are not controlled in any way.

And in the recent Vivek Oberoi event that I attended, Reena quite patiently waited until well after most of the guests had got their photos with the star guests before politely and quietly asking if one could be taken of her husband and herself with Vivek.

I know Reena is making waves because many women I meet swear by Women Empowered and tell me it makes a difference to their lives. I like the notion of giving in this fashion rather than doggedly working at being a councillor as a career step to becoming an MP with little else apart from work.

And the talk is that it won’t be long before Reena is given a seat to fight. Her family is behind her all the way.
As for Rami, he supports where he can and many events I attend bear the discreet hallmark of his backing.
He is pioneering  and a  nice story of a successful immigrant. He doesn’t ever dwell on current success, rather on how he and his family struggled to build from nothing.

I don't normally single out people who host events or businessmen on their own in this site but I feel I need to make an exception in the case of these two people. One, a well known face in the community, has made a massive contribution to trade and industry, the other, definitely on her way up the political ladder- and doing it with  a fair amount of grace. 

Full disclosure; Rami happens to be a friend of my late father's. But he has taken a lead among the current generation of business owners that is worth noting. 


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Reena Ranger's Women Empowered, Sewa Day, Movie Star Vivek Oberoi and Director Gurinder Chadha

Reena and her father Rami Ranger were kind enough to invite me along with my son and a friend to a spectacular evening recently held at the Bright Courtyard  Club in Baker Street earlier this month as their guests.

The event venue was light, bright and packed out, with well behaved audience members politely assembling in anticipation. Director Gurinder Chadha was there nice and early, amiable and chatty. Her husband Paul was in watchful attendance. It was good to catch up with her. They are preparing the West End opening of their musical "Bend in Like Bekham" and trying  to fit in a film (about Partitition)  before then.

People drank wine, ate canapes and mingled. As soon as the star guest, Vivek Oberoi, entered the room, there was a frisson with camera phones suddenly clicking away.

Reena confidently opened proceedings with a welcome address. Manoj Ladwa, Trustee of Sewa Day, a charity effort to serve the community round the world, talked about how he feels the need for service and shocked me with some heartfelt honesty about his relationship with his mother. Manoj handled communications for Indian PM Narendra Modi election campaign recently and is a quiet presence on the London scene. Other Sewa Day founders were also present.

Gurinder and Vivek took to the stage and Gurinder started asking the gently spoken, slim actor her questions.
Vivek has a stellar Bollywood career but he has devoted a huge amount of his time and energy to doing good. He was awarded the Red and White Bravery Award for helping rebuild a tsunami-hit village. He is the WHO's anti-tobacco spokesperson, and supports a whole host of charities including Banyan, which works towards rehabilitating mentally challenged, homeless women.
His passion for helping others was palpable and confounded expectation. At times, he became emotional when discussing service to others and the joy he derives from sharing with those perhaps less fortunate than himself.

While our photos were being taken I was able to ask Vivek an exclusive  question on tape, about why he felt it was important to attend the event. He told me,

"It almost didn't happen, actually. I was pretty busy at work, and I called up Manoj, and I was like, "Is it OK if I postpone this?" [He replied] "You have to make it." "And I just decided on the spur of the moment that no, I should come out here and reach out to people. I'm actually heading back tomorrow. I just came in only for this. To reach out to people and make a difference. That's why it's so important. The kind of people that were here today can have a very deep impact on a much larger society. I think we can take the flame forwards."

Of the Indian film stars I have interviewed over the past year or two, Vivek Oberoi impressed me as the one most committed to service. He clearly forms a special bond with those he meets through this work and they, in turn, have an impact on him.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

UK-Based Indian Diplomats Becoming More Media-Friendly

There's definitely a warmer, more inclusive approach to journalists from India House these days- at least those journalists who regularly report on matters Indian. There are more media briefings being organised, with the High Commissioner making himself more available to answer questions.

I've noticed that some senior officers have their favourites amongst the Indian  journalists.

There is also a seeming increase in events these days, though that could be due to the time of the year (Delhi is hot these days) and a new government in place. One such happening was a talk by former Indian Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi. The grand Gandhi Hall was packed out and Quraishi held the audience with a kind of magnetism. His personality and delivery  lifted this event away from the normal standard and made it fun.

Report here; Quraishi does good interviews, too.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Greenwich School of Management; Exec MBAs with a Difference

I regularly interact with business and management schools in some sort of speaking capacity at various conferences, and some of them have stand out features.

The independent higher education provider, GSM London opened up in the former GlaxoSmithKline building in Greenford, west London, not long ago and I was invited by our MP to a dinner to meet with its senior team . One of them is Brian Buckley, one of the school’s directors and heading up different departments; Recruitment, the Executive MBAs, Executive Masters, etc. He invited me over to the Greenwich campus one recent Saturday and as I jauntily sat on the theme- park like Docklands Light Railway for the last part of my journey, I noticed two glamorous Qatari ladies in my carriage. I discovered that they were coming to the GSM too; they had travelled across from the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane for the purpose. That set the tone; as among the delegates I later discovered a bishop, a psychiatrist, and interesting others.
Brian showed me round the excellent facilities and lecture rooms with names like “Admiralty Theatre” reflecting the fact that we were in the vicinity of the Royal Naval College.

The Executive MBA and postgraduate courses attract senior managers and professionals and GSM has constructed courses to fit with those at that level who are probably working much of the week. In a rare composite, the executive courses happen on weekends. People travel in from all over the world and the UK to study for three days with first class tutors in small classes. Different courses converge during lunch and break times for networking and I certainly broke my calorie count on chocolate brownies that day. I sat in on Dr Jag Kundi’s entertaining talk on accountancy and finance and learnt about cash flows. GSM is able to leverage visiting faculties from other universities so makes sure that he gets some hot talent. Jag was flown in from the University of Hong Kong and Brian regularly calls on Stirling Management School and St Andrews.

I also sat in on David Schofield talking about leadership styles. Clearly the level of debate is high with key decision makers from public and private programmes engaging with GSM. Sometimes the delegates know more than the tutors so there is learning on both sides.

It’s a way of sharing best practise. The school is rapidly gaining in popularity just on word of mouth.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Anniversary of suffragette Emily Davison; Why #Emilymatters

Actress/Writer Kate Willoughby

Today is the 101st anniversary of Emily Davison's most famous protest at the Epsom Derby. Actress Kate Willoughby wrote a play that has the relationship between Emily and her mother at its heart.

On Epsom Derby Day, 1913, Emily was gravely injured during her protest and her mother pointed out that whereas Emily was passionate about the suffragette cause, she also suffered for it. She wrote a letter to Emily about this that Kate discovered and this is what opened up the story for her:

"I cannot believe that you could have done such a dreadful act. Even for the Cause, which I know you have given up your whole heart & soul to & it has done so little in return for you."

The public perception of Emily was of an austere person but in reality, Kate told me, she was big-hearted, larger than life and had a great sense of humour.

Emily Davison campaigned for a serious cause but used inventive tactics and public correspondence with detractors.

Kate created #Emilymatters to highlight and support gender equality campaigns, such as No More Page 3, which use creativity as a means to communicate and has had great success.

She wrote a play called "To Freedom's Cause" which played at the House of Commons earlier this year. as part of a special event sponsored by Emily Thornberry MP, founder of the Emily Davison statue campaign. Kate starred in this five hander, which was directed by Brian Astbury.

Kate is a dab hand at social media and I'm learning a thing or two from her.  She uses social media to promote the missions that she is involved with and is focusing hard on gender equality. She gets high profile support from people like BBC broadcaster Jane Garvey and Helen Pankhurst (great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the militant suffragette movement).

Kate is building on a campaign she worked on for the May elections about voting and is now working on an expanded project for the 2015 general election.

For more info see http://www.katewilloughby.co.uk/