After a day of substantive announcements, Asean leaders and their Indian hosts had a more relaxed day on Friday, with the symbolic flagging down of an 8000 kilometre long rally.
The eleven leaders along with their spouses waved the chequered flags as the 31 SUVs drove in one-by-one in front of the porch of Vigyan Bhawan. These cars, manned by participants from all the Asean countries, had driven through nine countries after getting kicked-off in Indonesia. The car rally, along with the expedition of Indian sailing ship INS Sudarshini, were a visible demonstration of the physical and maritime connectivity between India and South-east Asia.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the rally “symbolizes the vision of an Asean-India community where people, goods, services and ideas can travel freely between us”.
He said their “physical bonds will be strengthened by digital links, which will help our younger generations to network better” and “unleash the vast economic potential of our region, accelerate development and deepen our strategic partnership”.
Asean and India elevated their relationship to a strategic partnership, and announced the conclusion of negotiations for a free trade agreement in services and investment. Later, the leaders withdrew to Taj Palace hotel for the official luncheon hosted by the PM.