NEW DELHI: Former US president George W Bush stepped briefly back into the limelight today, using a conference speech in New Delhi to defend his record and to crack jokes about his retirement.

Bush chose an annual gathering of business leaders in India, a country where his reputation rode high throughout his time in power, to make a rare public appearance nine months after leaving office.

“I have a different life now,”

Bush, 63, said wryly. “I am an old, retired guy.” Reflecting on how

his status had changed, he said he recently visited a hardware store in Texas that had offered him a job as a “greeter” who stands outside to welcome customers.

He said inside the store a man came up to him and asked if anyone had ever told him that he looked just like George W Bush.

Bush said he replied that it happened a lot, and the man said: “Gosh, that must make you mad.” The former president said he had suggested to his wife Laura that it was time she took up cooking, and she had suggested that he might take up washing dishes. “Nothing’s happened,” he told the amused audience.

He added that he was using his free time to write, and joked that “people said I couldn’t even read a book, much less write one.” And he said he was delighted to discover that now he got paid to give speeches, though “thankfully for you, I don’t get paid by the word.”

Despite the relaxed banter, the former president also delivered a passionate defence of

his 2001-2009 administration ranging from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to conditions leading to the global economic crisis. Bush was all praise for India. He said India and the US shared similar values and had been engaged in ideological battle against the extremists.

Lauding India’s help to rebuild Afghanistan, Bush said both the counties had to work together to defeat Taliban and other extremists so that the extremists could not use that country as a safe haven.

“The terrorists attack us because they hate our vision of human rights, peace and prosperity. They hate our way of life.”

Calling India a tolerant, peaceful, modern nation and a natural ally of the US, former President said, “America feels special kinship with world’s largest democracy.”

On India’s quest for a permanent membership of UN Security council, Bush said his country should support India for the same.