The Asean-India Car Rally, 2012 came to a end here today with the Assam government according a red carpet welcome to the 124 participants in 31 vehicles who had covered 8,000 km across nine countries.
The Assam government had lined up a four-hour cultural extravaganza to welcome the rally participants and other guests, including ambassadors of the Asean countries.
While the extravaganza included cultural representations from some of the northeastern states, it also included a daredevil show presented by the “Panther on Wheels” of the Assam Police and a skill demonstration programme by the “Veeranganas” – the first-ever all women police battalion of Assam.
Union Minister of State for Industry and Commerce D. Purandeswari was present at the flag-down ceremony at the Sarusojai stadium and termed the journey, which was first kicked-off from Yogyakarta in Indonesia on Nov 26, as a journey of new discovery, partnership and bonding.
“India has been seeking great cooperation from the Asean neighbours ever since it initiated Look East policy in 1991. India became a sectoral dialogue partner of Asean in 1992, which was upgraded to full dialogue partnership in 1996. The country had signed Asean-India dialogue partnership in 2001,” she said
The rally was also organized to commemorate the 20 years of Asean-India relationship as well as to commemorate the 10 years of Asean-India Dialogue Partnership, she said. “I hope the rally this year will help bringing the Asean economy closer to us,” said Purandeshwari, who also added that India had also been working on improved road connectivity between it and Asean countries.
“The rally symbolizes land connectivity between Asean and India and it will not only boost people-to-people contact between India and Asean,” she said adding that the successful completion of the Rally will not only open up new vista of opportunities before India and its Asean neighbours but also help promoting long term trade and commerce between the two.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who also spoke on the occasion, hoped that the rally will promote goodwill and cooperation besides trade and commerce between Asean and India, particularly for the northeastern states of India.
Hope brews for Assam tea in rally finale
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) president Adi Godrej, who was also present on the occasion, said CII had already identified key areas of cooperation between India and Asean, which includes energy, tourism and education sectors. He, however, stressed that connectivity is the key to all this aspirations between India and Asean.
Even as the ASEAN-India Car Rally envisages fostering business ties, the Assam tea industry is looking forward to exploring new markets in Southeast Asian countries.
The arrival of ASEAN business delegations for the flag-down ceremony of the rally at Sarusojai Stadium here on Monday has provided the captains of the tea industry an opportunity to showcase Assam tea and explore the prospect of exporting tea to ASEAN countries. The Joint Forum of Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and the Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP) will set up an exclusive stall showcasing tea at Sarusojai Stadium, where the ASEAN-India Trade Conclave will also be held.
“We will showcase tea varieties ranging from Assam orthodox, CTC to green tea. We will also discuss the prospects of exporting Assam tea with business representatives from ASEAN. So far, we have been focused on European markets for exporting Assam tea. But ASEAN has given us the opportunity to market our tea because all Southeast Asian countries are tea-drinking nations,” NETA chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty said.
According to the joint forum, although the ASEAN countries produce tea as well, there has been a decline in production in these nations over the last few years.
The production trend is on a decline while consumption is increasing in the ASEAN countries, which is clearly reflected in the downward trend of export from these nations, Barkakoty explained. “So there is immense opportunity for us to increase our export share to these countries. Indian tea export to ASEAN has increased from 0.67 % to 1.62% in terms of volume and from 0.92 per cent to 1.12 per cent in value,” he added.
The ASEAN-India Trade Conclave is being organised by the state industries and commerce department in association with CII with a special focus on the northeast.