Bangladesh: Rail passenger services between Bangladesh and India resumed this morning, more than four decades after the link was suspended.
The train, covered with flowers, whistled off at 8.30am (0230GMT) from Dhaka’s highly fortified Cantonment Station, to the sights and sounds of Benagali folk songs and dances.
“It’s a historic occasion for both the countries. We will be closer after the resumption of the India-Bangladesh passenger train service,” said Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury.
Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee flagged off the Moitree Friendship Express from Kolkata with 65 passengers on board on the first day of the Bengali New Year.
“It’s a historic moment for India and Bangladesh,” Mukherjee said, as the train left Kolkata’s Chitpur station. Passenger services between the two countries were suspended after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Bangladesh was then part of Pakistan and became independent in 1971 with Indian military help.
The area of Bengal was split along religious lines in 1947 when the subcontinent gained independence from British colonial rule. While passenger services have been suspended since 1965, cargo links continued, and in the 1990s a passenger bus service was launched between Dhaka and Kolkata.
On the inaugural service, 418 passengers boarded the train to Kolkata, the capital of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal.