PM Modi, Sheikh Hasina, Mamata Banerjee flag off Kolkata-Khulna passenger train

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The Bandhan Express train, which will operate between the eastern Indian city of Kolkata and Bangladesh's industrial city of Khulna, was flagged off by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina from Delhi and Dhaka, respectively, via video-conferencing. "Our two countries are also working to re-open our pre-1965 rail links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India".

Modi ended his speech on a note of thanks to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. On the occasion, Narendra Modi said the ties of friendship between India and Bangladesh have further strengthened.

With the inauguration of these services, a new door of relationship has been opened up between the two countries, she said, adding that the relationship would be further strengthened in future.

"We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia", she said.

Calling it a historic day, Mamata Banerjee said that with the initiation of the new train service the bonding between the two countries will become further stronger.

The two Prime Ministers - Mr Modi and Ms Hasina - also inaugurated simplified end-to-end immigration and custom clearance services of the Moitree Express which has been running between Dhaka and Kolkata.

He said India takes pride in being a "reliable partner" in Bangladesh's development.

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Modi was joined by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi, while Hasina was joined by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam in Dhaka.

Prime Minister Hasina said Bangladesh-India had set new high standards of bilateral cooperation which was essential for regional development.

She also wished all the success of the Maitree Express and Bandhan Express services. "I hope this fine display of mutuality of our relationship will further strengthen our bilateral relations", she added.

"Whenever we talk about connectivity, I always remember your vision to restore India-Bangladesh rail links that existed before 1965", Modi told Hasina during the video conference. When the Barisal Express, which used to ferry passengers till 1965, was shut down, passengers were inconvenienced. It will start from Kolkata at 6:00am and reach Khulna at 1:00pm.

The two railway bridges have been built at a cost of $100 million, which has been met from India's $8 billion soft loan to Bangladesh.

The bridges will improve rail connectivity between Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

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