It was to be a very formal luncheon at the Taj Palace, New Delhi, hosted by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
The top table was reserved for the VVIPs -- United States President George W Bush, First LAdy Laura Bush, Prime Minister Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur, former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and I K Gujral and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi -- and was cordoned off with a rope.
In addition to the VVIPs there were 150 other guests from diverse fields -- industry, politics, members of Parliament, authors, journalists, government servants digging into Tandoori Salmon and Lamb Curry.
"It was an interesting event. It was one of those great events for networking. An interesting menu. No chicken. I enjoyed the Masala Chai Crème Brulee. But I (initially) thought we were there to be seen but not heard. That we were bit players. As someone at our table said we were the hoi polloi," said Omar Abdullah, president of Kashmir's National Conference party and former minister of state for external affairs in the Vajpayee government.
"All the other tables were separated from the cordoned off VVIP table. But when the lunch began the rope disappeared! And between the main course and dessert George Bush was led to each table. At our table he spoke to (Rajya Sabha member) Jay Panda and me. He talked about how difficult it was going to be to push the nuclear deal through (the American)Congress."
The chief ministers of all the Indian states were in attendance. So too were the prime minister's entire Cabinet, Rahul Gandhi, Lal Kishenchand Advani, Arun Jaitley.
"No film stars. Obviously George Bush is not a fan of Bollywood," added Abdullah.
The Prime Minister's Media Advisor Dr Sanjaya Baru said, "It was very relaxed event. They both (Prime Minister Singh and President Bush) spoke at the beginning. It was a warm and cordial lunch."
Abdullah said, "What struck me the most was the body language between President Bush and the prime minister. There was a desire to convey a sense of warmth. It would have been very difficult for President Bush to have sustained that if it was artificial."
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