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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

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