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Friendship train on track: Dhaka

The long-awaited ‘Moitree’ (friendship) Express between Kolkata and Dhaka is on track to roll out from April, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2008 01:10 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

The long-awaited ‘Moitree’ (friendship) Express between Kolkata and Dhaka is on track to roll out from April, visiting Bangladesh Army Chief General Moeen Ahmed said.

“The deal is done and has been cleared by the Bangladesh cabinet,” Ahmed told the Hindustan Times. “Hopefully, it will run from Poila Boishakh (of the Bengali calendar that falls on April 14).”

To reduce problems for passengers, he suggested they disembark at ‘no man’s land’ (150 metres on either side of the border), go through a security check and then board the train for the onward journey. The Indian delegation, he said, welcomed the proposal, which would reduce the number of security checks to one.

According to Ahmed, his visit — he will travel from Delhi to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun and then on to Agra, Goa and Kolkata — is intended to raise levels of mutual trust and cooperation, “correct misconceptions” and raise people-to-people contacts.

Although Ahmed was appointed during the tenure of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party under Khaleda Zia and is widely viewed as the power behind the current caretaker government (CG) in Dhaka, he has personally invested considerable energy to improve on troubled India-Bangladesh relations, analysts said. In just over a year since the CG assumed power, the sharp anti-India rhetoric (of the BNP-Jamaat era) has declined and the initial crackdown on terrorist organisations and anti-Indian insurgent elements has helped create conditions conducive to improved cooperation.

India hopes the first visit by a Bangladesh army chief in a decade would lead to the creation of an institutionalised mechanism for information sharing. With Bangladesh emerging as a major centre for terrorist-related organizations, many with an anti-India agenda, sharing vital information could be crucial to curbing terrorism.

A senior official pointed out that visits by two Bangladesh service chiefs in one month (Bangladesh navy chief Rear Admiral Sarwar Jahan Nizam visited India earlier this month) was a “significant indication” of the CG’s desire to improve bilateral relations.