While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his team does the heavy hitting when a member of the Superpower Club like George W Bush and Hu Jintao comes to town -– Dr Singh and the Chinese president spoke for 100 minutes! -- a State visit's social niceties are left to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Once the mind wrestling over issues like the vexed boundary question or China's endorsement of the India-US nuclear deal conclude, President A P J Abdul Kalam's office takes over, ensuring that the visiting leader returns with a glimpse of Indian grace and hospitality.
Unlike Bush who vocally indicated how impressed he was with the welcome and dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan we don't know what Hu thought of the pomp and pageantry -- the President's bodyguard, none of whom is less than six feet tall, standing ramrod erect, lining the Presidential palace's corridors, or the grandeur of the Ashoka Hall with its ornate ceilings that could give, to my mind, the Sistine Chapel a run for its money.
*Yeh Dosti Nahi Todenge, composed by Rahul Dev Burman for Sholay. Sing it aloud and you will figure out its significance in the medley of tunes played by the naval band at Tuesday's dinner. It was, in fact, the final tune played, as the guests ate their dessert.
Image: President A P J Abdul Kalam with Chinese President Hu Jintao and his wife Liu Yong Qing. Also in the photograph, centre, S M Khan, press secretary to the President.
Text: Nikhil Lakshman | Photographs: T S Ashok/Rashtrapati Bhavan
Also read: An evening with the stars, under the stars