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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
New India-Dhaka bus link
Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

A new bus route connecting Bangladesh to the Indian state of Tripura has started operations.

The new route provides India with a direct land route to its eastern states, which are cut off from the rest of the country by Bangladesh.

But only a handful of seats have been sold on the new service, which follows several months of hard negotiations.

For India, the route is a potentially a significant development because Delhi has long wanted to improve road links to its remote and inaccessible far eastern states.

Many people in Tripura are eager to use the new service, which will enable them to travel to Calcutta and Delhi without having to bypass Bangladesh.

Costly ride

But unlike the three-year-old bus service linking Dhaka to Calcutta, seats for the new route are not selling well.

Critics say the price of the tickets at around $20 each is too expensive.

Poorer people from both countries keen to see relations on the other side of the border are expected to continue walking across the boundary and avoid paying for bus tickets and visa fees.

Travellers who do apply for visas can expect lengthy waits.

Someone from Tripura wanting to make a return journey to Delhi would need a double-entry visa for Bangladesh, which can take several weeks to obtain.

Bangladeshis wanting to travel to India face similar problems.

But our correspondent says the fact that the new bus route is operating at all shows that relations between the two countries, despite frequent hiccups, remain cordial.

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