Indo-Bangla train diplomacy was back on track on Monday with the maiden journey of the Maitree Express. "It is a historic moment that would pave the way for better ties between the two countries in the long run," said Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner Muhammad Imran, as the train rolled out of Kolkata.
The train has created fresh hopes of improved ties between the two countries. Officials in South Block and the Dhaka foreign office expect Track II diplomacy would go a long way in settling several unsettled bilateral issues between the two countries.
Water sharing, demarcation of the 6.5-km land border, exchange of enclaves according to the Mujib-Indira Boundary Agreement, the huge trade deficit against Bangladesh have been major bones of contention between the two countries since 1971.
Relations, however, have been on the mend since last year. Bangladeshi diplomats say External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to areas affected by Cyclone Sidr and India providing £1million in aid set the tone for better ties. Pranab's visit was followed by Bangladesh Army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed's six-day visit to India last month.
The new-found warmth is already evident. Mukherjee has assured he will look into Bangladesh's concerns about the bilateral trade imbalance, river management and non-tariff barriers. Mukherjee has also announced "unconditional duty free access" for two million readymade garments from Bangladesh to India.
In return, India has appreciated the Bangladesh caretaker government's efforts to check the movement of Indian extremists there.