“Indians are pro-Bush,” said Gurcharan Das, a prominent writer. “He saw that with China rising, America needed a big country to be an ally. He hyphenated India with China and de-hyphenated it with Pakistan and Indians loved that.”

Whatever the view may be of him elsewhere, in India the 43rd president is seen as a straight-talking statesman. In 2008, Modi’s predecessor as prime minister, Manmohan Singh, assured Bush: “The Indian people deeply love you.”

That affection has endured. The landmark 2005 nuclear cooperation agreement, which reversed more than three decades of U.S. policy by granting India access to American civil technology, is a big part of Bush’s lasting appeal.

So is the Bush persona. The things that drive other foreigners nuts—the unshakable certitude, the folksy language—Indians like.

“George W. Bush occupies a special place in the minds of many Indian foreign policy elites,” Sadanand Dhume, an India-born specialist on the country at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. “In a nutshell, Bush took India seriously.”