Car rally to commemorate 20 years of partnership concludes

Asean Economic Minister Chair and senior Commerce Minister of Cambodia Cham Prasidh on Monday said the Association of South East Asian Nations and India are all set to elevate their ties to a strategic partnership.

The leaders of the two sides are expected to make the announcement at the 20th commemorative Asean-India summit in New Delhi on December 20-21.

India became a sectoral dialogue partner of the grouping in 1992. The relationship was elevated to full dialogue partnership in 1995. Since 2002, the two sides have been holding annual summits. The framework of agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation was signed in 2003 and the agreement on trade in goods in 2009.

Addressing the formal flag-down ceremony of the Asean-India car rally 2012 — the marker event of 20 years of relationship — Mr. Prasidh said north-east India was not an enclave but a gateway between India and Asean. “We are very proud that the participants of the car rally proved that India and Asean are now effectively connected by road,” he said.

Altogether, 124 participants drove through mountains and valleys of eight of the 10 Asean countries and the three north-eastern States of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, traversing a distance of about 8,000 km in 22 days to reach here on Sunday afternoon.

The crowd, which assembled at the Sarusajai Sports complex to witness the ceremony, cheered the participants as they drove in a convoy of XUVs that took part in the rally. Traditional Assamese Bihu dancers welcomed the participants to the venue.

The rally was flagged off at Yogyakarta, Indonesia on November 26.

Journey of friendship

Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries D. Purandeshwari said the second edition of the car rally was a journey of friendship and discovery and symbolised a new phase in the decade-old dialogue partnership. She said ties with Asean were a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy and hoped the commemorative year would bring the Asian economies closer.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi called for elevating the partnership with Asean.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) president Adi Godrej addressed the function, which was also graced by Laos Industry and Commerce Minister Nam Viyaketh.

World-renowned Shillong Chamber of Choir rose to the occasion with a medley of western music, and popular Bollywood numbers. Its mentor and founder Neil Nongkynirh played the piano.

Brilliantly choreographed dances regaled the audience as 700 schoolchildren, 120 performers sporting the traditional attire of north-eastern communities and Asean regions, and 50 Mizo bamboo dancers performed with gusto. The crowd joined the choir in singing the popular number “We are in the same boat, brothers” composed by legendary ballad singer Bhupen Hazarika.

A presentation of folk fusion dance and Hazarika’s popular number ‘Manuhe Manuhor Babe’ choreographed by Pankaj Ingti enthralled the foreign delegates. A display of daredevilry on motorcycles, “Panthers on Wheel,” by Assam Police stuntmen and a drill by newly inducted Veerrangana, a women commando unit, added glitter to the colourful event.

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