Silchar, Feb. 25: The four-country car rally that aims to strengthen the bond of fraternity among the south Asian countries of Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar rolled into this second biggest town of Assam to a tumultuous welcome this afternoon.
The rally was flagged off in Calcutta by Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday after six years of preparation. It will culminate at Kunming in Yunan province of south China on March 5, traversing a distance of 3,000km.
Hundreds of people lined the streets to welcome the participants from the four countries on their way to Silchar DSA stadium where the Cachar district administration had arranged a colourful performance of Assamese, Bengali, Mizo and Manipuri dances.
The rally will be flagged off tomorrow morning from the Silchar DSA ground by Assam power and industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi on its second leg to Myanmar and China via Kaley, Mandalay, Dally and Ruly towns in the two countries through Manipur's border township of Moreh.
Dipak Kumar Singh, a senior official of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), one of the sponsors of the event, said the rally has 20 cars, all SUVs from the house of Tatas, and 80 participants, including 15 women.
The SUVs are of the Aria, Safari and Xenon varieties, which can withstand the vagaries of hilly and difficult road conditions. All the participants will take their turns at the wheel on the roads of the four countries.
The rally is primarily designed to foster friendship among the people of the participating nations in a bid to generate trade and commerce as part of the nascent efforts by South Asian countries to build a global economy.
Another purpose of the rally is to embark on an exploratory journey through Stilwell Road, parts of which it will cover in Myanmar. The road was built during World War II by Lt Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell to ensure supplies from Ledo in Assam to China via Burma (now Myanmar).
Welcoming the participants, Congress legislator Sushmita Dev, who is also the chairperson of Silchar Municipal Board, hoped the car safari would provide a new impetus to the governments of these countries to upgrade the Stilwell Road into yet another silk route to usher in a new dawn in trade and commerce.
Aye Min Htun, a Myanmarese official, also hoped that the car diplomacy would usher in a new renaissance in trade and commerce in these four countries.