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Indo-Bhutan Friendship Car Rally, 2021, From Roads To Hearts Bhutanese and Indian bilateral relations its people-to-people interactions are unique. The two brotherly nations share a bond that has been tested through more than half a century of ups and downs and has successfully faced every challenge thrown at it.
Besides being a neighbour Bhutan is one of India’s closest friends and allies. Both the nations have a similar global view and regularly present a united front in global affairs. Culturally the two nations are intertwined both through Buddhism and ethnic roots. The Bhutanese and Indians have had age-old matrimonial and trade ties which bind them together.
The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Car Rally, 2021 to be flagged off from Itanagar on 23rd of October, is an attempt to build upon these connections and make them more profound. It is being organised by International Friendship Car Rally Association(IFCRA), a not-for-profit organisation based in Arunachal Pradesh, India, in association with North East Today, the premier media outlet of North East India.
The rally can be a great tool to build upon the relationship between the two countries as a new global order takes shape where people-to-people contact will play a pivotal role. The rally is being sponsored by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports believe that such events build character among the youth and the exposure that they get from such expositions will inculcate in them the vision of a global community espoused by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu.
Mr. Tseten Chombay, MD and Editor in Chief of Northeast Today believes that “More than political or foreign policy, it is the goodwill among the people that guarantees that friendly ties flourish between nations. The various events scheduled during the rally shall focus on discussions and activities to enhance goodwill and understanding between the Bhutanese and Indian people.”
According to Mr. Pem Sonam, President of IFCRA, it is only people-to-people contact that will guarantee an unwavering friendship between two nations. He also believes that it is up to the people of both nations to nurture and nourish it. Bhutan shares cultural, religious, linguistic, and ethnic ties with the western regions of Arunachal Pradesh.
Divided by an international border yet people in this region have had close ties for eons which are still robust. Bhutan shares a border of 217 km with Arunachal, 267 km with Assam, 183 km with West Bengal, and 32 km with Sikkim. Bhairabkunda and Phuntsoling are important tri-junction border towns between the two countries from where people can freely travel into either of the two. There are numerous villages and towns from where people traditionally cross into the other.
Crisscrossed by the Eastern Himalayas, the region is a unique identity. Hindi is widely understood in Bhutan and the Indian rupee is an accepted form of currency in Bhutan. This Rally will not only help in cementing the age-old ties between Bhutan and India but will also create a platform to showcase traditional and cultural associations between both nations. Furthermore, it will also catapult Bhutan as a preferred tourist destination for Indians.
The rally will promote motorsports and adventure tourism along the Indo-Bhutan border areas of Arunachal Pradesh. It will also help the youth of the two countries to interact with each other and understand each other’s culture and traditions. It shall strengthen age-old friendly ties for all times to come.
It is noteworthy that Bhutan holds a special place in the hearts of Indians especially among the Monpa community of Arunachal Pradesh. This Rally will reignite those relations. The Bhutanese make regular pilgrimages to the Buddhist sites in India and the Indians living in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh pay similar visits to Bhutan.
People-to-people interaction between two countries humanises both sides. Personal relationships between the people of Bhutan and India may not count much in the foreign policy calculations of India or Bhutan, but these relationships are what people hold in their hearts.
The friendship between India and Bhutan would otherwise be an abstract idea for the ordinary citizens of the two nations. In the mind of the ordinary Bhutanese, India is a society where Buddhism originated. For Indians, Bhutan is the nation where the happiness of the people takes precedence over anything else. Both the countries have a lot to teach each other.
Thousands of Indians visit Bhutan each year as tourists. This does amount to people to people contact between the two countries. However, tourism has its limitations. For the overall growth of deeper personal connections between the people of the two nations, it is necessary to organise events that are focused on building relationships at the grass roots.
This Rally is an example of how to enhance personal ties between the people of Bhutan and India who already hold each other very highly. In conclusion, the relationship between India and Bhutan is special and the mutual respect each of these countries has for the other is mirrored in the respect the people feel towards each other.
This, it is imperative to keep building upon such ties and strengthening our relationship. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Car Rally, 2021 is a step towards this and we are hopeful that our initiative will open the doors for more people to people contact between the two friendly neighbours and set an example across the world.