IT was a meeting of two old friends.
But US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak stuck to formalities for their offical greeting at the White House on Tuesday.
Trump was at the door of his West Wing office to greet Najib when the latter’s car pulled up to the front door.
There were big smiles all around and even a couple of shoulder taps — just like old pals.
The two men had played a couple of rounds of golf with each other before Trump announced his candidacy.
Trump had sent Najib a picture of the pair in a golf cart with the words: “To my favourite PM.”
That picture took pride of place in Najib’s office even before Trump made it to the White House.
After Trump won, Najib was among the first world leaders to speak to the newly elected president.
► Najib was invited personally by Trump to visit.
Seldom do small nations get priority over the likes of Russia and Germany.
But Najib became the first Malaysian PM to get invited to the US in the president’s first year in office.
At their first official meeting on Tuesday, Trump repeatedly declared it was an honour to have Najib at the White House.
Malaysian Ambassador Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique tells of how he has visited the Oval Office three times since January.
Something envoys seldom get to do.
At his last meeting with Trump, with National Security Council director-general General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, the first thing the American leader asked was: “How is your PM’s golf game?”
Following Tuesday’s White House trip, Trump broke with protocol and sent Najib right to the front door.
► The usual practice is for the president to see out his guest only to the Oval Office door.
When reminded of this by his officials, Trump remarked: “He is my friend.”
That is the sure sign of an old pal.
* This article first appeared in yesterday’s Malay Mail Afternoon E-paper