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Rally marks goodwill, amity
Clarion call to strengthen India-Asean ties

Guwahati, Dec. 17: With the India-Asean partnership completing 20 years, Cambodia commerce minister C. Prasidh today called for elevating the partnership to a “strategic level”.

Speaking at the flag down ceremony of the Asean-India car rally at Sarusajai Sports Complex here this morning, Prasidh said the leaders of the Asean nations will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on Thursday-Friday and make an effort to use the partnership as a catalyst for achieving peace, progress and prosperity for the people of these countries.

Cambodia is the rotating Asean chair for this year.

The car rally and the commemorative summit have been organised to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Asean-India dialogue partnership and the 10th anniversary of Asean-India summit-level partnership.

Prasidh said by organising the car rally, the Indian government has proven that the Northeast is not an enclave but the country’s gateway to Asean countries. He said the rally has also shown that the region is effectively connected with Asean nations by road.

The car rally, which had started from Yogyakarta in Indonesia on November 25, reached Guwahati last evening after covering around 8,000km across nine countries.

Describing the car rally as a journey of friendship, discovery, partnership and bonding, Union minister for commerce and industry D. Purandeshwari said the 21st century is poised to be the century of Asia and by joining hands, India and Asean have the potential to emerge as a region that shapes world economy.

She said the car rally symbolises the beginning of a new phase in the two-decade-old India-Asean dialogue partnership and opening of new vistas for communication and co-operation between the nations.

According to her, strengthening of the India-Asean partnership will facilitate the development of the Northeast.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the car rally would promote people-to-people contact, trade and commerce, tourism and the like. He said there were lots of similarities between the people of the Northeast and Asean nations, who are simple and warm-hearted.

He thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for taking the initiative and hoped that it was a beginning in the right direction.

Gogoi suggested that for overall development of trade and commerce of the Northeast with Asean countries, direct flights to LGB International Airport at Guwahati would increase the possibilities of enhancement in volume of trade, commerce, investment as well as tourism in the entire northeast region.

Assam’s minister for commerce and industries Pradyut Bordoloi said the gains from the trade meet should be further consolidated for the mutual benefit of both regions.

In his inaugural speech, Assam chief secretary N.K. Das said trade and business between India and Asean countries had gone up to $74.9 billion in 2011 from $9.88 billion in 2001.

CII president Adi Godrej said the signing of the Asean-India Trade in Goods Agreement has paved the way for creation of one of the world’s largest free trade areas market of almost 1.8 billion people with a combined GDP of US $2.8 trillion.

“Assam provided a memorable finale to this prestigious rally. We need more such initiatives,” CII director general Chandrajeet Banerjee said.

Commerce minister of Laos, Nam Viyaketh and Union minister of state for tribal affairs Ranee Narah, were among those attended the ceremony.

A performance by the Shillong Chamber Choir, a daredevil performance by Panthers on Wheels of Assam Police, dance performances and a pipe-band display were some of the highlights of the function.