Kunming (China): Eighty rally enthusiasts from Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar travelled across the four nations in 20 cars as the epic journey from Kolkata to Kunming was flagged down here this evening by vice governor of Yunnan Province, Gao Shuxun.
In an effort to revive trade and commerce along the Southern Silk Route that was closed nearly seven decades ago after the World War II, the BCIM Forum had organised the 3,000-odd kilometres rally that was flagged off in Kolkata by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
There was euphoria all around as the participants danced to the gong beats by the ethnic minority groups from Yunnan Province -- Yi, Jingpo and Dai -- who welcomed rally as the convoy rolled into the `city of eternal spring`.
"It`s a historic moment that the four countries have for the first time come together to participate in a rally of this kind. It carries enormous significance and it has strengthened the bonds of friendship. It`s also more significant for us as it was flagged off by our chief minister Mamata Banerjee," West Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra, who was here as a special invitee, told PTI.
CII Eastern Region chairman R K Agrawal, who flew down to welcome the participants here, said: "The BCIM Car Rally had two objectives. To bring the four countries together and how business opportunities can be further explored along the land route. Secondly, we feel that CII should act as a catalyst in removing bitter feelings if there are any."
Indian contingent head and CII representative, Sunil Mishra, who was one of the participants, became emotional as the 12-day odyssey came to an end.
"The feeling is similar to when a good book comes to an end. I was happy to have read the book. At the moment, the feeling is difficult to describe," Mishra said.
Mishra has been working on the initiative for more than six years as it had appeared a lost cause at one point of time.
"I`ve been in discussion with the Chinese delegation
since 2006. It`s a journey we completed in 12 days but it actually began seven years ago," a relaxed Mishra added.
The rally passed through more than 600-km long difficult terrains of Silchar and Imphal and then from Ka Lay to Mandalay in Myanmar and the Chinese cars in the convoy suffered multiple breakdowns.
One of the cars had to be transported on a truck from Manipur to China as Mishra urged for the need to develop road connectivity which will enable people to travel across the region without any hurdle.
"Regulations have to be there but once that starts happening, the road will act like a cable with impulses across different points where development and growth will happen."
Since the rally ended in China, recounting a popular Chinese saying is in order: `If you want development, first make a road. Once there is a good road, development will follow.`
Chinese team leader, Cheng Yunchuan felt the rally had convincingly proved that if there is a will, there is a way.
"I sincerely hope the rally will help develop relations between the four countries as we really are neighbours," he said.
Deputy country leader Yang Ye termed the rally historic. "We were confronted with many difficulties on the path but it`s been a very successful journey overcoming the hurdles."
Country leaders of Myanmar and Bangladesh are convinced that if trade starts happening along the corridor, it will automatically promote development.
"BCIM is the hard-earned fruit of our international cooperations. We hope the rally will help promote trade and cultural exchanges across the border," Mohammad Delwar Hossain of Bangladesh said.
Myanmar, languishing in political and economic isolation till as recently as 2010, is looking forward to integration with the two powerful neighbours - China and India.
"We are opening up our economy and hope there will be investment from both China and India. A motorable road will go a big way in helping the country catch up with the rest of the world," Ne Win of Myanmar said.