JAKARTA - In his closing remarks yesterday after the annual summit talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak paid tribute to a dear friend, who may not be around at next year's summit.
"We will always be friends, now and forever," said Najib of Susilo. He said his relationship with "Bapak Presiden" went beyond formal ties.
Susilo, 64, is completing his second and final five-year term as president.
This annual consultation, the 10th in its series between Malaysian and Indonesian leaders, will be his last.
Constitutionally, Susilo is barred from seeking a third term in the presidential elections in July.
Witnessed by nearly 30 cabinet ministers from both sides and under the glare of television and still cameras, Najib used the occasion to heap praises on the man who had helped much in putting bilateral economic, business and people-to-people ties on a much stronger footing than ever.
Widely known in Indonesia by his initials "SBY", Susilo was sworn into office on Oct 20, 2004, together with Jusuf Kalla, another of Najib's good friend, as vice-president.
Susilo ran for re-election in 2009, with Boediono as his running mate, and won with an outright majority in the first round of balloting. He was sworn in for a second term on Oct 20, 2009.
His rise to the top office in Indonesia coincided with Najib's appointment as deputy prime minister in 2004. Najib went on to become premier in 2009.
Both Susilo and Najib are leaders of neighbouring states with a common culture and language.
But, what is more important is that their personal bond and relationship have strengthened over the years.
Both have grown comfortable with each other and can take jokes.
Speaking at Istana Merdeka, the presidential palace in central here, Najib and Susilo acknowledged that the fruits of Indonesia-Malaysia cooperation were seen every year and had the opportunity to increase.
"Our cooperation and partnership continue to increase from year to year," said Susilo.
"We are often unaware that there are many achievements we can obtain.
"We are maintaining this momentum to further expand (our partnership) in the future."
After their joint press conference, Najib and Susilo were joined by their wives, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and Kristiani Herawati, for lunch in the next building.
The four made their way there on a golf buggy.
Susilo drove the buggy, while Najib sat next to him and took a "selfie". Rosmah and Kristiani sat in the back.
For lunch, they sampled "salad ayam panggang, sos paprika, soto padang and nasi kapau", said a palace chef.
The outgoing Indonesian leader has laid a strong foundation for Malaysia-Indonesia ties, despite some "irritants" from time to time.
Najib can certainly count on him to smoothen out ties between the two countries in the future.