BCIM car rally to revive Southern Silk Route

More than six decades after an ancient trade route was closed post World War II, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM) hopes to retrace the lost trails and revive commercial trade in the 'Southern Silk Route' with a 3,000-km car rally from Kolkata to Kunming in China.

In an interview to PTI on the eve of the 12-day BCIM Car Rally, CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee said the rally would not only achieve a unique feat since the route had been closed since the World War II, it would also demonstrate symbolically that "China is not far away from India".

"Since most parts through which the BCIM Rally cars will travel are underdeveloped, the potential of trade is enormous. Here I am not talking about border trade, but commercial trade by the land route," he continued.

"The region of North East in India and the adjoining parts in Bangladesh, Myanmar and South West China remain by and large underdeveloped.

"There is a common need for regional connectivity, which when it happens will give impetus to development, and also increase trade and commerce," he said about the region which has a market of 2.8 billion people, and a GDP of USD 9.3 trillion.

The idea to hold a rally between Kunming and Kolkata took shape with a resolution at the 2006 Delhi Forum meeting and the suggestion was soon affirmed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao later in the same year with a joint communique.

"CII since then has been in dialogue with its counterpart organisations and governments in Bangladesh and Myanmar for this car rally," Banerjee said.

Banerjee incidentally has been honoured with the China-India Friendship Award by the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for his contributions towards the development of bilateral ties between India and China.

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