Imphal/Guwahati, Dec. 15: The Northeast got into “rally” mode today with Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh flagging off the India leg of Asean-India Car Rally, 2012 from the historical Kangla fort in Imphal with the hope that it would strengthen business and strategic relations between India and Asean countries.
The rally travelled 7,000km in the past 21 days before entering Manipur — India’s gateway to Asean countries — from Myanmar at 9 this morning. People lined up on both sides of the road at the border townships of Tamu in Myanmar and Moreh in India when the rally entered Manipur.
A state government team, headed by commerce and industries minister Govindas Konthoujam, accorded a warm reception to the team at Moreh before it headed for Imphal.
In Imphal, a large crowd turned up on the streets to witness the rally, comprising more than 30 cars, pass by. A cultural programme was also organised at Kangla fort.
Welcoming the team, Ibobi Singh said the rally would strengthen the ties between the countries. He also appealed to the participating countries to become partners in the Manipur Sangai festival in November next year.
The rally, which was flagged off at the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta on November 26, has been organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and the ministry of external affairs.
Donni Dovuditrihangana, a participant from Indonesia, said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We interacted with the people of the countries we passed through and learnt their cultures. This will certainly improve relations.”
The rallyists will spend the night at Kohima before heading for Guwahati tomorrow where a flag-down ceremony will be held on Monday.
In Guwahati, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi visited Sarusajai sports complex to oversee preparations for the rally.
He first inspected the Dr Zakir Hussain aquatic complex where he interacted with minister of state for sports (independent) Ajit Singh and senior sports officials on the preparations being made to accord a rousing welcome to the participants of the car rally.
He then proceeded to the main stadium, the Indira Gandhi athletic stadium, to oversee the preparations and rehearsals for the event. He discussed the preparations in detail to make it a hassle-free and smooth affair.
Minister for industries and commerce Pradyut Bordoloi, one of the key organisers, was party to the discussion. Gogoi will visit the Sarusajai sports complex again tomorrow to oversee last-minute preparations, including rehearsals for the cultural items.
Sources said government agencies and officials have been working “tirelessly” to ensure that all arrangements are in order before the “big” event. One of them said the PWD (national highways) division has got around 347km of road — from Lahorihjan in Karbi Anglong to Guwahati through National Highways 39 and 37 — ready for the rally. He also made special mention of the efforts put in by the CMO, industry, sports and home departments.
The industries and commerce department, in association with CII, is organising the Asean-India Trade Conclave, with special focus on the Northeast, at Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Hall, also inside the Sarusajai sports complex, on Monday. This will follow the flag down ceremony of the rally.
Cham Prasidh, commerce minister of Cambodia, Nam Viyaketh, commerce minister of Lao PDR, Pawan Singh Ghatowar, DoNER minister, Purandeswari, Union minister of state for commerce and industry, Ranee Narah, Union minister of state for tribal affairs, and the industry ministers of the northeastern states and representatives from all sectors will be present at the conclave.
The focus will be to demonstrate India’s proximity to the Asean countries, create public awareness of India-Asean relations, promote connectivity, especially road transport, and enhance trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people links between India and Asean countries.
Official sources said as the Northeast is the closest landmass connecting South and Southeast Asia, the trade conclave will emphasise consolidating business and commerce with Asean countries as an economic block.