LAHORE, Pakistan: Nuclear neighbors and rivals Pakistan and India will be replacing the gates on the Zero Line between the bordering towns of Wahga and Attari on their independence days on Aug. 14 and 15.
The days mark the transfer of power to the two countries as separate dominions with a gap of 24 hours in between.
The Wahga-Attari border, which links Pakistani Punjab’s city of Lahore and Indian Punjab’s city of Amritsar, is one of the three places where several hundred people from the two sides witness the lowering of flags every day.
The security forces from the two countries — the Border Security Force (BSF) of India and Pakistan Rangers — have jointly performed the military drill in the evening while lowering their national flags since 1959.
The other two points where similar parades are held daily are Mahavir/ Sadqi (in India) — Fazilka (in Pakistan), and Hussainiwala (in Ferozpur, India) — Ganda Singh Wala (in Kasur, Pakistan). The gates were installed between the two countries after the separation in 1947.
The exercise is known as the “Beating Retreat drill.” The paramilitary forces of the two countries, the BSF and the Rangers, shut the heavy gates for the night at the joint check post amid a synchronized display of aggression.
The drill is a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation with each other.
The Wahga-Attari border is the most active land point for transportation of goods between the two countries and citizens with visas cross the border on foot, using this path to enter each other’s country.
The “Friendship Bus” (Dosti Bus), which connects Lahore with the Indian capital, Delhi, also crosses into the neighboring country using this gate for two round trips every week.
The parade is a permanent feature of the border activity and has continued despite security threats — on Nov. 2, 2014, 60 people were killed and another 110 injured in a suicide attack on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border. The Indian side denied the public attendance on the evenings between Sept. 29 and Oct. 8, 2016 owing to the India–Pakistan military confrontation on Sept. 29, 2016.
The gates on the two sides are being changed with the mutual consultation of the two countries with the aim of providing a good view of the parade and seeing the audience sitting on the opposite sides.
The process of removing the old gates and installing the new ones has begun on the two sides and Pakistan will complete it by tomorrow (Aug. 14, Tuesday).
According to media reports the Indian security officials have confirmed the replacement of gates on Wagah Border, saying the countries have agreed on installing similar gates.
The Indian media reported that the new gates will have a similar design on both sides and the earlier gates were unnecessarily big with thick pillars, which hindered the view of spectators from either side to look beyond the Zero line.
Nand Lal Chauhan, former superintending engineer, Central Public Works Department, said the gate was designed by a renowned architect. “We had handed over the design to the BSF. After a discussion with the Pakistan Rangers, some modifications were introduced before final approval from both sides,” he said. The weight of the gate is 5.5 quintals. It is 51ft wide and 11ft high.
JS Oberoi, DIG, BSF, Amritsar sector, said: “It was mutually decided to let the people on both sides have a clearer view of the Retreat Ceremony.”
The officials in Pakistan have confirmed that the inauguration of a new gate on their side will take place on Aug. 14, as a part of Independence Day celebrations.