Dhaka, November 9: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday stressed the importance of further strengthening relationship among neigbouring countries to ensure their greater growth and prosperity.“I’ve been convinced from the very beginning that there should be relationship like genuine neighbours with the leaders of our neighbouring countries,” he said while jointly flagging off Khulna-Kolkata ‘Bandhan Express’ train service with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina through a videoconference.
“I’ve the full confidence that if we strengthen the relationship among people, we’ll touch the new sky of growth and prosperity,” Modi said.
Sheikh Hasina flagged off the train from her official residence Ganobhaban here, while Narendra Modi, accompanied by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, opened it from his office in New Delhi.
The two prime ministers also inaugurated the ‘end-to-end’ immigration and customs facilities of Dhaka-Kolkata ‘Maitree Express’ train service and opened the second Bhairab Railway Bridge and the second Titas Railway Bridge through the videoconference.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also joined the inauguration through the videoconference from West Bengal.
Pointing out that development and connectivity are interlinked, Modi said they have taken some more steps towards strengthening the relations between the two countries which have centuries’ old historical links, especially among the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh.
“Whenever we talk about connectivity, I always feel the vision of restoring your pre-1965 connectivity. I’m very happy that we’re continuously moving forward into this direction. Today, we’ve also inaugurated two railway bridges,” he said.
Modi said the bridges, built at a cost of around 100 million dollars, will help strengthen Bangladesh’s rail network.
“Being a trusted partner in the development of Bangladesh is a matter of pride for India. I’m glad that projects are progressing well under the commitment of our 8-billion dollar concessional finance,” he said.
Modi said the most important dimension of connectivity is “our people-to-people connectivity”. The inauguration of the international passenger terminal will facilitate the travellers of the Kolkata-Dhaka Friendship Express and the Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express which started today,” he said.
The Indian Prime Minister said this will not only ease customs and immigration process, but also save three hours during their travel “Friendship and bondage, the names of these two rail facilities are also in line with our shared vision,” he said.
He extended his heartfelt gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Mamta Banerjee for their cooperation in this work.
Modi also greeted the people of the two countries on the occasion of Diwali, Durga Puja and Kali Puja and said, “I wish all the countrymen all best in this festival season.”
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee hoped that the friendship, unity, harmony, solidarity and the bond of language between the two countries will be further strengthened in the years to come.
Mamata described the inaugurations of railway bridges and Bandhan Express a historic and memorable day for both Bangladesh and India saying that the travel time will now be reduced by two hours between Dhaka and Kolkata.
She noted that the relations between Bangladesh and India have been very good since the tenure of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bangladesh is one of the best friends of India in the whole world.
“Still, I hope our relations will grow better and the Bandhan Express will further strengthen the bond of the two countries,” she said.
Mamata invited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit West Bengal at her convenient time.
The Prime Ministers jointly inaugurated the two railway bridges built under the Indian Line of Credit in Bangladesh.
The one-km long Bhairab Rail Bridge over the Meghna River and the second railway bridge over the Titas River in Bangladesh have been completed at a cost of over USD 102 million. These bridges will ease congestion on the Dhaka-Chittagong main rail route.
The starting of the Bandhan Express will fulfill a longstanding demand from the people of Khulna in South Bangladesh for a direct train service to Kolkata. Bandhan Express will have all air-conditioned coaches and run every Thursday from 16 November 2017.
The Maitree and Bandhan Express trains are symbolic of the friendship and trust between the two countries will facilitate people-to-people contact between India and Bangladesh. It will greatly reduce travel time and inconvenience of passengers traveling by train between India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Moshiur Rahman, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, MP, were also present at Ganabhaban, while Railways Minister Mazibul Haque joined the videoconferencing from the second Bhairab Bridge site.
PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, Indian High Commissioner Hrash Vardhan Shringla, National Board of Revenue Chairman Mohammad Nazibur Rahman and PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim were present at Ganobhaban.