New Delhi: In a bid to boost connectivity and people-to-people contact between India and Bangladesh, the prime ministers of the two countries on Thursday flagged off a new train service between Kolkata and Bangladesh’s southwestern industrial city of Khulna.

This is the second major railway link between the two countries. A link connecting Dhaka and Kolkata was flagged off in 1999.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina flagged off the service in the presence of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee through video conference, an Indian government statement said.

“The most important dimension of connectivity is people-to-people connectivity," said Modi in his speech on the occasion.

The Kolkata-Khulna service called “Bandhan" (bond) is an air-conditioned weekly passenger train that will run every Thursday from both cities.

“The two major services—Maitree (friendship) and Bandhan—are in accordance with our vision for connectivity between the two countries," Modi said, adding that development and connectivity were interlinked with each other.

The three leaders, who were joined by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, also inaugurated two railway bridges, and an international railway passenger terminus at Chitpur in Kolkata.

In her remarks, Hasina said that ties between the two countries had been further strengthened by the new railway link.

India-Bangladesh ties have seen an upswing especially after India ratified the Land Boundary Agreement with its eastern neighbour in 2015, something that had been languishing for decades. New Delhi sees its eastern neighbour as key to bringing to fruition its plans to quell insurgency in India’s restive northeast as well as usher in development in the region through trade besides strengthen linkages with Southeast Asia given Bangladesh’s strategic location.

Connectivity has been a key theme espoused by Modi since coming to office in 2014 given that South Asia is seen as one of the least integrated regions in the world with low levels of trade. India has been working with many of its neighbours to boost connectivity in the region —at the level of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) as well as the subregional Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal level.

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