0106 GMT November 20, 2019
The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) Friendship Motor Car Rally was flagged off from the Iranian capital of Tehran on Friday for its destination St. Petersburg, via Astara in the northern Iranian province of Gilan, Volgograd and Moscow.
The objective of the rally is to promote INSTC and friendship among the countries' along the corridor including India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.
Participants in the motor rally are also from these four states. They began the rally from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
On their return from St. Petersburg, they will cover a distance of 19,000 kilometers to conclude the rally at Chabahar Port in southeast Iran.
The flagging-off ceremony was attended by India's Ambassador to Iran Saurabh Kumar, Azerbaijan's Ambassador Bunyad Huseynov as well as senior officials from Iran's Ministry of Road and Urban Development and Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Addressing the function, Kumar expressed his gratitude to Iran's Ministry of Road and Urban Development for extending full support to make the event possible.
He said the rally is aimed at conveying the message that INSTC is an important corridor which has economic viability and benefits all the countries through which it traverses, as well as India.
"We would like to see this corridor going and being economically exploited to the maximum extent possible. This car rally carries the message of friendship between India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia."
Kumar said the initiative was rooted in 70 years of India-Russia diplomatic relations which was celebrated last year.
"I am both personally and professionally very satisfied to see this event taking place today. I wish all the participants all the best."
He added the nature of such rallies is such that participants will gain very fascinating experiences.
"Last evening at my residence, I had interesting conversations with some of the participants. So many of them said that Iranians are the best and the friendliest people."
Quoting comments from the participants about the quality of the Iranian roads, he said the high quality of roads, as an important transit and transportation infrastructure, in Iran contributes to the INSTC's viability.
"I am also aware of the good work being done by the Iranian friends in collaboration with Azerbaijan to plug the gaps where the railway does not exist. I think some of these stretches would be completed and operational very soon and others in a couple of years. All of us are working to get this corridor going to its full potential."
In India, conventions have been ratified in the customs area which would help goods' movement, he said.
The Indian ambassador stressed that events such as this car rally and the trial movement of containers along the route provide a good opportunity to see where things can be improved.
He said ultimately the route is to be exploited commercially, adding commerce will gravitate toward the route if it finds it viable and cost-effective.
The ambassador noted that all the countries along the corridor would be doing their bit to promote the INSTC and organize events such as the present car rally.
He said at the end of the day, if the route is to bring benefits to all the countries, it needs to be a smooth route and one which presents its economic viability.
In the past four years, the INSTC's implementation has gained a lot of momentum, Kumar stressed, hoping that the momentum would lead to the achievement of the desired objectives.