Following is the text
of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s remarks at Flag Down of the
ASEAN-India car rally in New Delhi Today:
“I would like to begin by conveying, on behalf of more than a billion
people, a very warm welcome to the ASEAN-India Car Rally participants. I
congratulate them on successfully completing a remarkable journey of
8000 km through eight countries in 22 days. They deserve our cheers for
this feat of endurance.
I would also like to welcome the 250 students from ASEAN countries who
have joined us this morning. Their presence has added special warmth to
this cold December morning in Delhi.
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. Let me also add a special word of
welcome for the performing artistes from the ASEAN countries, whose
sparkling show last night enriched our celebrations and served to
underscore our cultural links.
This event is imbued with symbolism and content that go beyond the mere
adventure of the sport. It highlights that India and ASEAN, joined
together on land and by water, with shared borders and shared cultures,
are neighbours. It is a tribute to earlier generations of merchants,
monks and adventurers, who traversed this route in a quest for fortune,
knowledge and spirituality. In the last three weeks, the Car Rally has
rekindled these ancient bonds of friendship between India and ASEAN. It
has also served to highlight the natural strategic imperative for our
relationship in contemporary times.
Through the rally participants, we have seen the magnificent
achievements reflected in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur in
Indonesia, Wat Phu in Lao, Sukhothai in Thailand and many other sites.
The rally has helped millions of people in our countries to get a better
sense of our heritage and progress, our cities and natural sites, our
convergences and possible synergies, and our potential and challenges.
The rally has, in the most vivid manner possible, reinforced the
importance of strengthening connectivity in all its dimensions between
India and ASEAN.
This rally symbolizes the vision of an ASEAN-India community where
people, goods, services and ideas can travel freely between us. 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. These physical bonds will be strengthened by
digital links, which will help our younger generations to network
better. Together, this web of linkages will help unleash the vast
economic potential of our region, accelerate development and deepen our
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
Even as we celebrate the Car Rally, there is another voyage of
friendship taking place on the seas. The Indian Navy sail training ship
INS Sudarshini, which is at present in Manila, is on a six month long
expedition to nine ASEAN countries. It is yet another symbol, not only
of our proximity, but also of our shared maritime interests.
India-ASEAN relations are at an exciting stage. The past two decades
have seen enormous progress in our relations in many areas. Yesterday,
we framed a new paradigm for our relationship by elevating it to a
strategic partnership and announcing the conclusion of negotiations on a
Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment. I am confident that
this agreement could be as transformational as our agreement on Goods
I wish to thank you all for joining us today for this ceremonial flag
down of the India-ASEAN Car Rally. I would like to commend my colleagues
in Government and the Confederation of Indian Industry for undertaking
this remarkable initiative. I am deeply grateful to the Leaders of ASEAN
for their active support and the facilitation provided by their
Governments for making this Rally a success. While we flag down this
Rally, we are also flagging off a new journey of closer cooperation and
a deeper strategic partnership, not only for the benefit of our people,
but also for peace, progress and prosperity in our region and the world.
I have no doubt that a new era awaits us all.
I thank you.”