Wagah Border: Bridging gaps between India and Pakistan with cheer

May 28th, 2008 - 10:03 pm ICT by admin  

By Ravinder Singh Robin
Wagah Border (Amritsar), May 28 (ANI): In August 1947, Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew a line demarcating the boundary that created the separated countries of India and Pakistan. Since then, the ‘Radcliffe Line’ has separated millions of families and neighbours, unmindful of the fact of whether they were Hindus or Muslims in what was once known as Hindustan.
The 1947 Partition saw the world’s biggest exodus of people by road and train. At that time, a board was hurriedly put up that announced that Wagah would be regarded as a joint outpost.
However, over six decades later, the demarcation at the Wagah border has turned into an attraction and a place for many Indians and Pakistanis to unite, sans anger or hostility.
A road trade link comes alive every evening with a ceremony called “lowering of the flags”.
“During the Partition, circumstances were appalling as the border (Wagah check-post) witnessed people from both sides affected with the bloodshed. Now, things have changed and there is growing amity between the two countries,” said one resident.
“Wagah has become more overcrowded now. Shops have been established and residents are having better facilities with improved transportation. Earlier, people had to travel on foot. But, things have changed a lot,” said another local resident.
For many people arriving at this popular Wagah border from any part of India, the visit is no less than a pilgrimage.
Developed as a road link between India and Pakistan, Wagah emerged as a trading hub. After the April 2003 peace process, India and Pakistan constituted a joint study group to explore better economic cooperation.
However, there have been demands that the border check post on the Indian side be rechristened as Atari because the Wagah is now in Pakistan.
A lot has changed in the last 60 years at the Wagah check-post.
“Now, so many quality restaurants have sprouted in Wagah. There are many resorts that were not there earlier. Soon the road to Wagah will have four lanes. Rajasansi international airport helped handling the increased tourist inflow at Wagah border. Initially, there were only 10-15 flights a week, which have now extended to 100,” said Virat Dutt Chaudhary, a custom official at Wagah.
The check-post has now become a celebrity post for both the nations. Every evening, an impressive Retreat Ceremony is held at the Sunset that marks the closure of gates at the International border.
There’s an air of excitement, as soldiers from both the sides march in perfect formation and lower their respective national flags at the Sunset.
Visitors from the Indian side of the border generally outnumber their counterparts from the Pakistani side even though the enthusiasm on both sides remains the same.
But, the striking feature of the everyday ceremony is the attempt to outdo each other in a dramatic display of anger and contempt for each other.
“Of the two countries at the ceremony the Indian side was more excited. It was worth watching,” said Anurag, a tourist.
“There were many tourists here. I think it is like that every day. It’s a good way to promote India,” said Nicholas, a French tourist.
Many believe Punjab seek the services of world renowned experts in tourism infrastructure to design and develop a sprawling tourist facility with state-of-the-art recreation gadgetry, gardens, parking space, restaurants and hotels near the check-post and along the Wagah-Attari Road.
And, the growing cordial relations between India and Pakistan will further help in promoting the cause of enabling each other to come closer and develop a relation of affection and respect. (ANI)

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