Hakim Hayat In New Delhi, India
After travelling nearly 8,000 kilometres across nine Asean member countries, the Asean-India Car Rally 2012 was flagged down by India and Asean leaders at a ceremony held in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi yesterday, marking a "new journey of closer cooperation and a deeper strategic partnership" through increased connectivity.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was among the Asean leaders given the honour to flag down the car rally as their respective countries' rally cars drove past.
His Majesty and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha departed from India yesterday.
The leaders were here for the Asean-India Commemorative Summit marking 20 years of their partnership. Upon arrival at the hall's VVIP Lounge, His Majesty was greeted by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and spouse.
The Asean-India Car Rally kicked off to a grand start at the historic city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on November 26, 2012. The 22-day rally was participated by 124 people from 11 countries.
Manmohan Singh said he had no doubt that a new era awaits both India and Asean.
The car rally arrived in India on December 17 at Guwahati, Assam.
The event comes a day after India and Asean elevated their ties to a strategic partnership and finalised a pact for Free Trade Area (FTA) in services and investments.
The Indian Prime Minister said the car rally highlights the connectivity between India and Asean, which are "joined together on land and by water, with shared borders and shared cultures".
Manmohan Singh said the rally "symbolises the vision of an Asean-India community where people, goods, services and ideas can travel freely between us".
He said their "physical bonds will be strengthened by digital links, which will help our younger generations to network better" and "unleash the vast economic potential of our region, accelerate development and deepen our strategic partnership".
The increased connectivity would especially benefit the northeastern states, he said, adding that he would "encourage the establishment of institutions linked to the India-Asean relationship in the northeastern states".
Remarking that India-Asean relations "are at an exciting stage", the Indian Prime Minister expressed confidence that the FTA on services and investments would be as "transformational" as the FTA on goods.
India and Asean, which share a two-way trade of $80 billion, have targeted trade to increase to $100 billion by 2015.
India became a sectoral dialogue partner of the grouping in 1992 and was elevated to full dialogue partner in 1995 in recognition of the country's rising stature and economic potential. Since 2002, the two sides have been holding annual summits.
The Confederation of Indian Industry has been part of the car rally and has held business meets en-route to boost economic ties with the Asean countries.
Accompanying His Majesty at the event were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II.
Meanwhile, following the flag-down ceremony of the Asean-India Car Rally, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to attend a luncheon hosted by Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India.
His Majesty's arrival at the Vazir Lounge, Taj Palace Hotel, was greeted by the Indian Prime Minister and Mrs Gursharan Kaur. Also joining the luncheon at the Durbar Hall of the hotel were other Asean leaders.
Accompanying His Majesty were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office and Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II.
- Borneo Bulletin
(22 December 2012)