It is a quarter past eight and one can hear strains of Hindustani classical music wafting across the main hall of Anurag Bhushan’s plush home in Emirates Hills. A motley crowd of Indian men and their spouses mills about the ethnically decorated living room as we introduce ourselves to the 14th consul general of India in Dubai. The setting is a special sit-down dinner hosted by the Bhushans for a very special guest — senior BJP leader and former finance and foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, who is in Dubai to speak at a public event. Though it’s been some time since the Modi-led government took over at the Centre, the small talk in the room still revolves around the new PM and whether his regime will change the way the world perceives India. “Overseas envoys are the first barometer of how a foreign country perceives a particular leader or head of state,” says Bhushan, whose spouse Neeta is a career diplomat currently stationed as the deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Sinha, whose son Jayant is now the minister of state for finance, patiently listens to Bhushan, who continues to articulate his thoughts on the new government.
Sinha later, regales the small crowd with anecdotes from his earlier visit to a foreign country following the Pokharan nuclear test — during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s single term as PM — when he received more than a warm welcome. The message was that envoys of a nation with a powerful leader earned more respect in a foreign land. As the evening progresses, the conversation moves to the dinner table, where an elaborate Mughlai spread awaited the guests. As forks and spoons clanked against the fine bone china plates, the consensus that emerged was things should be different for India given the decisive mandate the BJP received. That the new government wants to build bridges with this part of the world is evident from external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s maiden visit to the UAE a few days before Sinha and minister of state for petroleum and na