New Delhi, Nov 20 : With better connectivity, North East India could well be the gateway to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries comprising of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
This was articulated by Thailand Ambassador to India Pisan Manawapat on Saturday evening at a press conference held at the private residence of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio at Sovima village.
The Thai envoy, while expressing optimism that with easier connectivity, the South East Asian countries sees NE region especially the states of Nagaland and Assam as gateway to ASEAN, added that the improved situation in Myanmar would also act as a catalyst for easier connectivity between India and the ASEAN and thus enhance better relations.
Also stating that ASEAN countries, by 2015, will become a community of nations, he further stated that the Look East Policy will become more of a reality only with the initiatives taken by India towards this end.
The Thai envoy was accompanied by the High Commissioner of Malaysia, Ambassadors of Vietnam and Laos. They were in Nagaland to oversee the preparedness of the
State to host the 2nd ASEAN-India Car Rally 2012, which would be flagged in at Kohima, before proceeding to Assam in December.
The rally, which is set to take place from November 25 to December 20 and is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in close cooperation with the member states of ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat, also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-India relations.
The rally has been conceived with the following objectives: To demonstrate proximity of India with ASEAN countries; to create public awareness of India-ASEAN relations; to promote connectivity, especially road transport, and to enhance trade, investment, tourism and people to people links between India and the ASEAN countries.
Officials from Ministry of External Affairs, GoI, & CII Nagaland Chapter and other State officials were also present at the press meet.
Also addressing the media, Chief Minister Rio expressed happiness about the forthcoming mega event and said the State is honoured to host the participants for the second time at Kohima. He also assured, on behalf of the State Government, that the participants would be given the best possible care. In this regard, he said a committee would be set up, headed by Himato Zhimomi, IFS, to make arrangements for the smooth conduct of the rally in Nagaland.
On India undertaking a number of initiatives to strengthen economic cooperation with ASEAN countries in areas of common interest, for promoting free trade, combating terrorism and for ensuring security in the region, Rio said the North Eastern states and particularly Nagaland will receive maximum benefits as it remains the centre point of the ‘Look East Policy’.
“In India, we are at one end of the world, but with the Look East Policy, we become the centre point of it,” he said, adding that it will create a boom in the NE states and Nagaland extensively.
Stating that North East India and the ASEAN countries have much in common, be it culture, geographical proximity, etc, he also said the car rally is a step to come closer. One of the first priorities of the motor car rally should also result in opening up better connectivity by road, he said.
Chief of Protocol, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI, Dr Sumit Seth and President CII, Nagaland Chapter, Dr Ao Toshi also spoke at the press conference.
The ASEAN delegation included Ambassador of Laos Thongphanh Syackhaphom and his wife Viengseng Syackhaphom; High Commissioner of Malaysia Dato’ Tan Sung; Ambassador of Vietnam Nguyen Thanh and his wife Dang Thi Thanh Xuan; MInsiter-Counsellor, Royal Thai Embassy, Worawuth Bunchaliew; Minister-Counsellor, Royal Thai Embassy, Miss Sasirit Tangulrat; First Secretary, High Commission of Malaysia, Faizal Shani; Press Assistant, Royal Thai Embassy, Benjapol Peuchsingha and Deputy Chief of Protocol, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI, Dr Sumit Seth.
Since the “Look East Policy of 1991”, the partnership between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam has started developing at quite a fast pace. India became a sectoral partner of ASEAN in 1992, and a full dialogue partner in 1996.
With the 1st ASEAN-India Car Rally organised in 2004 with the objective to give ASEAN-India relations a very public face and a trail-blazing beginning, it created an atmosphere of exuberance that people of both sides still cherish and celebrate. The rally not only marked a meaningful step forward in ASEAN-India relations, but also reflected the existence of the land route connectivity that facilitated in being a catalyst of the free flow of trade, investment and terrorism between the ASEAN countries and India.
The organisers informed that the forthcoming Car Rally, with the expedition of 31 Mahindra & Mahindra XUV 500 vehicles, will travel through 8 of the 10 ASEAN countries and India in 22 days around 8000 kilometers. 124 participants from 11 nationalities will travel together in a piloted convoy on a predetermined route.
The flag-off will take place on November 26 at Jakarta, Indonesia. It will enter India on December 15 at Moreh border, move towards Imphal and take a night halt the same day in Kohima.
The rally will depart from Kohima for Dimapur on December 16 and will formally end on December 17 at Guwahati with a flag down ceremony by Anand Sharma, India’s Union Minister of Commerce, Industry & Textiles and Trade Ministers from the ASEAN countries. The rally will finally culminate in Delhi with a ceremonial flag-down on December 20 by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the presence of the Heads of State of 10 ASEAN countries.