Wagah – Attari Border Closing ceremony by India & Pakistan
Wagah (Punjabi: ਵਾਘਾ, Hindi: वाघा, Urdu: واہگہ) is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan, and lies on the Grand Trunk Road between the cities of Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan. Wagah itself is a village through which the controversial Radcliffe Line was drawn. The village was divided by independence in 1947. Today, the eastern half of the village remains in India whilst the western half is in Pakistan.
The Wagah border, often called the “Berlin wall of Asia”, is a ceremonial border on the IndiaPakistan Border where each evening there is a retreat ceremony called ‘lowering of the flags’. At that time there is a very energetic and thrilling parade by the Border Security Force (B.S.F) of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers. It may appear slightly aggressive and even hostile to foreigners. Troops of each country put on quite an entertaining show in their uniforms with their colorful turbans. Border officials from the two countries sometimes walk over to the offices on the other side for day to day affairs. The happenings at this border post have been a barometer of the India-Pakistan relations over the years.
Samjhauta Express, the train service between Lahore and Delhi, plies twice a week from Attari railway station, 5 km from Wagah. The National Highway 1 of India starts from Wagah Border, and is the transit point for the DelhiLahore Bus service operating within the Punjab between Amritsar and Lahore, which was started in 2004 as relations between the two countries improved.
During British rule the village was part of the Lahore Division of British Punjab. In 1947 the division, like the village, was split between India and Pakistan.
Porters carrying goods across Wagah border For the past 60 years since independence in 1947, porters have been carrying goods across the Wagah border, which had been the only road link between the two nations, before the opening of Aman Setu in Kashmir for the start of the SrinagarMuzaffarabad Bus in 1999. On August 1415, 2001, the respective Independence days of Pakistan and India, the candle-lighting ceremony at the Wagah border, in which 40,000 Pakistani citizens and 15,000 Indian citizens took part, was seen as a reflection of the changing public mood over India-Pakistan reconciliation; such candlelight vigils and the yearly ‘Midnight Peace Festivals’ were also reported in subsequent years. There have been many calls for the opening up of Wagah border to promote Indo-Pak trade through increased transport between India and Pakistan. In March 2005, a delegation of the Indian Border Security Force met the Pakistan Rangers at the Wagah border to discuss the border issue after three years since the 20012002 IndiaPakistan standoff.
In May 2005, Pakistan allowed the import of five specified food items, free of tax via Wagah border to tide over shortages in the domestic market; eventually, in an unprecedented move, on 1 October 2006, trucks carrying goods crossed the Wagah border for the first time since the independence of Pakistan and India over 60 years ago. The 1,400 Pakistani and 1,300 Indian porters employed till then were employed in unloading lorries and trucks, with this the bi-lateral arrangement which accounted for $1.3 billion (£650 million) a year in trade in 2007 and was expected to exceed $10 billion by 2010. The trade has further improved since then through the Wagah post, despite the ups and downs of Indo-Pak relations.
With over 8000 people visiting the border on an average day just on the Indian side, governments have started developing Wagah as a tourist destination, improving tourist and custom facilities. The Indian government plans to develop a global tourist complex at the Wagah-Attari border, which lies 30 km away from Amritsar.
As the relations between the two nations improved, the joint talks to tone down the sunset ceremony were held between BSF and Pakistan rangers, and the two later started “reorienting” their personnel involved in the ceremony, effects of which were seen by November 2006, when the evening ceremony at the border was considerably less aggressive than in previous decades on both sides