Washington Famously early to bed, President Bush made an exception Monday night for what has been a rare event in his administration: a glitzy, Washington A-list dinner.
The menu's fragrant basmati rice and lotus blossoms, the saffron-colored, silk tablecloths and the trumpeting elephants fashioned from fresh mums and roses were in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur.
The event was only the fifth grand dinner of Bush's presidency, and the first of his second term. Previous dinners were for the leaders of Mexico, just days before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; Poland, in July 2002, and the Philippines and Kenya, in May and October 2003.
Monday's soiree was an "official" dinner, not a "state" dinner like the previous events, because Singh is a head of government and not a head of state.
In celebrating the relationship between the United States and India, the tuxedo-clad Bush raised a glass to "two nations bound by our common interests," including combating global terrorism.
"As two strong, diverse democracies, we share a commitment to the success of multiethnic democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law," Bush said. "And we believe that by spreading the blessings of democracy and freedom we will ensure a lasting peace for all citizens of the world."
Bush, known to hit the sack around 9 p.m., has shied away from such big dinners, unlike his immediate predecessors, each of whom held dozens of such events.
Earlier in the day, Bush told Singh that he would push for a reversal of U.S. policy to help India build a nuclear power program that will help solve an electrical power shortage.
A joint statement from the two leaders said that Bush would ask Congress to change U.S. law and will work with allies to adjust international rules to allow nuclear trade with India.