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Posted on Nov 26, 09:26PM | IANS
Hundreds of people, including children waving flags, cheered as the Asean-India car rally was flagged off from Yogyakarta in Indonesia Monday, marking the close links between India and the 10-nation grouping.
The rally was flagged off in a grand ceremony at Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel. It will pass through eight Asean countries over 22 days, covering a distance of 8,000 km, before entering India, Dec 17 at Guwahati. A total of 124 participants from 11 countries are participating.
The car rally marks the 20th commemorative year of the Asean-India relations and 10th year of their summit level engagement.
From the Indian side, P.S. Raghavan, special representative of India's external affairs minister, Gurjit Singh, Ambassador to Indonesia and Asean and Adi Godrej, president of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) flagged off the rally cars while the Indonesian side was represented by Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja, director general of Asean in Indonesia's ministry of foreign affairs, representative of the governor of Yogyakarta and other dignitaries.
The Asean national anthem was sung on the occasion followed by cultural performances from India and Indonesia. A Manipuri dance troupe from Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) performed on the occasion.
The rally proceeded to the iconic Borobudur temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world where the participants planted saplings to mark the occasion. They also witnessed the unveiling of a bronze bust of Rabindranath Tagore at Borubudur Temple by Gurjit Singh and Listyowati, director of South and Ccentral Asia, in the Indonesian foreign affairs ministry.
The bronze bust of Rabindranath Tagore has been sculpted by Janak Jhankar Nazary, professor of Art History in Viswa Bharti and gifted by the India's culture ministry especially to commemorate the visit of the Nobel Laureate to Indonesia in 1927 where he had also visited Borobudur temple and planted a sapling.
The rally then proceeded to its final leg of journey to Surakarta (Solo). After a night halt at Surakarta, the rally participants fly to Singapore for the second leg of the car rally, which is organised by India's ministry of external affairs, and the CII.
It will be ceremonially flagged down in Delhi on Dec 2 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the presence of 10 Asean heads of state.
"Asean has emerged as one of the most important trading partners of India accounting for bilateral trade of USD 79 billion (10 per cent of India's total trade) in 2011-12, crossing the target of USD 70 billion by 2012 set in 2009," said a CII statement.
India became a full dialogue partner of Asean in 1995 and has been holding summit level meetings since 2002 on an annual basis. In 2009, India signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on goods with the Asean and is hoping to ink a FTA on services and investments soon.
Along with the car rally, business marker events will be organised in countries en route to connect with the industry and the common man.