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India, Bangladesh Resume Train Services


India and Bangladesh have resumed passenger train service across their border after more than four decades. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the services had been suspended following a war between India and Pakistan.

Thousands of enthusiastic people waved in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata as a flower-adorned train began its inaugural journey to Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

The celebrations were equally joyous in Dhaka, as officials flagged off a decorated train in the opposite direction amid traditional singing and dancing.

The passenger train service between Dhaka and Kolkata has been named the "Moitree" or Friendship Express. It was started on the first day of the Bengali New Year.

Officials on both sides called it an historic moment for both nations, and said it would strengthen bonds between the two countries.

Train services have been suspended in the region since 1965 when India and Pakistan fought a war. Bangladesh was then a part of Pakistan, but six years later it became an independent nation.

People of Bangladesh and West Bengal in India share a common culture and language. Thousands of people have relatives on both sides of the border, but they have not been able to meet easily since 1947 when Bengal was divided between India and Pakistan.

Enthusiastic and emotional passengers boarding the train in India said the service will help people on both sides restore links.

These passengers say brothers, sisters and relatives will be able to re-establish bonds that were severed. One of them said he felt like crying. They say politics kept them apart, but it will now be easier for them to re-unite.

The two countries are also connected by more expensive air and bus services. The trains will initially run twice a week.

Security concerns have delayed the roll-out of the service. India has insisted on the construction of a fence in the area where the train passes through a barely-populated region where smuggling and illegal migration take place.

Security was tight on both sides as the service began. In India, a group representing Hindu refugees (All Bengal Citizens Committee) from Bangladesh briefly tried to obstruct the train because it opposes closer links between the two countries.

Relations between India and Bangladesh have been marred by suspicion and rivalry for many years even though India helped Bangladesh win its independence from Pakistan. But officials hope the train service will strengthen their relations. The service is expected to be popular with Bangladeshis visiting their larger neighbor for business or medical treatment.

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