NEW DELHI, Dec 21 � Making a strong pitch to market the North-east among the visiting Heads of States, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Friday encouraged setting up of institutions linked to the India-ASEAN relationship in the region.
Stating that India-ASEAN relations were at an �exciting stage�, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that the free trade agreement in services and investment would be transformational.
He was flagging down the 22-day, eight-nation India-ASEAN Car Rally in presence of 11 HoS and Chief Ministers of NE States, including Tarun Gogoi, here this morning. �India and ASEAN nations should build a web of linkages to unleash the vast economic potential of the region,� he observed.
The 31 SUVs that were earlier received at Guwahati, arrived to a thunderous applause of students, diplomats and a horde of media persons from ASEAN countries, at the Vigyan Bhawan. Some 250 students from ASEAN countries, who joined the celebrations, added to the colour of the event.
�Their presence has added special warmth to this cold December morning in Delhi,� the Prime Minister remarked.
�We are also joined by many other special guests today � the 50 ASEAN diplomats training at our Foreign Service Institute in Delhi, the 30 ASEAN farmers who have travelled here and who will host reciprocal visits from Indian farmers and the 20 Senior Editors from the media in ASEAN countries. I welcome them all,� Dr Singh said.
The car rally was flagged off from Yogyakarta in Indonesia on November 25 and reached New Delhi after traversing nearly 8,000 km across eight countries.
The rally, the Prime Minister observed, symbolises the vision of an ASEAN-India community where people, goods, services and ideas can travel freely. �Whether it is by road from India to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, or by air or sea to Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, our future will be driven by the bonds of connectivity we build in the coming years.
�For India, nowhere will this benefit be more pronounced than in our North-eastern States and I would encourage the
establishment of institutions linked to the India-ASEAN relationship in the North-eastern States,� he said.
The car rally was organised on the 20th commemorative year of the ASEAN-India relations and 10th year of their summit level engagement.
Along with the car rally, business marker events were organised in countries en route to connect with the industry and the common man.
The events focused on sectors like manufacturing, mining, IT and IITs, education, healthcare, agro and food processing, border trade, investment and financing, infrastructure and development, air and sea connectivity and people-to-people contacts.