HCM CITY (VNS)— India is far closer to Viet Nam and other ASEAN countries than people generally think, Indian Consul General Abhay Thakur has said.
Addressing a recent press conference in HCM City on a "unique" car rally that commemorates 20 years of India-ASEAN partnership, he said that despite the historic close ties that India had enjoyed with Southeast Asian nations, a perception of physical distance had persisted.
The car rally aims to "demonstrate proximity of India with ASEAN countries, create public awareness of India-ASEAN relations, promote connectivity, especially road transport, and enhance India-ASEAN trade, tourism and cultural links", Thakur said.
The rally, which hit the road on November 25 in Indonesia with 80 rallyists from eight ASEAN nations and 44 from India, from will cover 8,000km as it traverses through eight of 10 ASEAN nations (Brunei and the Philippines are not covered because, as island nations, they cannot be reached by road).
It will enter Viet Nam shortly past noon at the Moc Bai Border Gate in Tay Ninh Province on Thursday, December 6.
HCM City would accord a grand welcome to the India-ASEAN Car Rally, said Nguyen Hoai Huong, representative of the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
He said a cavalcade of around 40 motorbikes would receive the Car Rally at the border gate and accompany it to HCM City.
The city would also hold a welcome ceremony at around 4pm the same day and a send-off ceremony at 7am the following day at the Reunification Palace in the heart of the city, Huong said.
It will travel through Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc provinces and exit Viet Nam via the Hoa Lu Border Gate to enter Cambodia.
Thakur said that during the rally, a series of "marker events" would be held, including the visit of Indian Coast Guard ship Samrat to HCM City from December 2-6; an India-ASEAN multi-sectoral business seminar with participation of 15 leading Indian companies from the Confederation of Indian Industry on December 6; and the same evening, an Odissi dance performance.
"There will be a high-level participation from India during the Car Rally and its various marker events in HCM City, including the visit of India's Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed and Chief Minister of Assam, a leading province in Northeast India, Tarun Gogol," he said.
The India-ASEAN Car Rally is an expedition of 31 Mahindra-&Mahindra SUVs and 124 rallyists from India and eight ASEAN countries.
After its departure from Indonesia last Sunday, it will travel through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos, and Myanmar before entering India through Assam and reaching New Delhi on December 20 in time for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in the capital city.
Thakur said that the Indian government had launched a special website www.aseanindia.com on the occasion of the anniversary with several social media links.
India is also marking the anniversary with an expedition of its sail training ship Sudarshini that is retracing the sea routes developed during the 10th to 12th centuries, linking India with Southeast Asia.
The ship will pass 13 different modern and ancient ports in ASEAN countries, including Da Nang in Viet Nam in January 2013. — VNS