Bangladesh and India restore train link
Tue, Apr 15, 2008

DHAKA - PASSENGER train services resumed between Bangladesh and India yesterday after being suspended for more than four decades when the route was derailed by a war between India and Pakistan in 1965.

Bangladesh was then part of the eastern province of Pakistan.

Amid singing and dancing, the first 'Maitree Express' train left Dhaka for the eastern Indian city of Kolkata in the morning with nearly 500 passengers.

Another train left Kolkata for Dhaka at almost the same time.

'I heard a lot about the train service from my parents. I am happy to be part of this historic moment,' said Bangladeshi passenger Chowdhury Mainul Hasan.

Novelist Imdadul Haq Milon said: 'This train will bring all of us together again.

'I was a student when the Indo-Bangla train was suspended. I heard stories of how our parents used to visit Kolkata on the train. I cannot miss this opportunity.'

Mr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, an adviser for foreign affairs to Bangladesh's army-backed interim government, added: 'It will strengthen the bonds between the two countries.'

Thousands of people on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border have relatives on the other side.

Many Bangladeshis travel to Kolkata, capital of India's West Bengal state, and other Indian cities to seek medical treatment, officials said.

'Now, the visit to India by students, patients, businessmen and tourists will be cheaper and easier,' an official said.

Before the rail service was restored, most people travelled by bus between the two countries.

Indian officials said the train would run twice a week.

Bangladesh and India signed a deal on July 12, 2001, to resume a direct train service between Dhaka and Kolkata.

But the roll-out of the service was delayed by India's insistence on the construction of a 150m-long security cage along the railway passage through a no-man's land between both countries to ensure security and to stop smuggling and illegal migration.

Dhaka has now accepted the Indian demand that a 'box-type' fence be constructed.


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