Wagah-Attari border ceremony
|Wagah-Attari border ceremony|
|Coordinates||31°36′17″N 74°34′23″ECoordinates: 31°36′17″N 74°34′23″E|
|Years active||Since 1959 (62 years ago)|
|Founded||Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers|
The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari–Wagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance like manoeuvres and raising legs as high as possible, which have been described as “colourful”. It is alternatively a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation between the two nations.
At the international border between India and Pakistan, the pomp and pageantry of the Beating Retreat and the Change of Guard occur within handshaking distance of the Indian and Pakistani forces. Wagah, an army outpost on the India-Pakistan border between Amritsar and Lahore, is an elaborate complex of buildings, roads and barriers on both sides. The daily highlight is the evening “Beating the Retreat” ceremony. Soldiers from both countries march in drill, going through the steps of bringing down their respective national flags.
The Wagah-Attari border ceremony
Marching by Indian Border Security Force soldiers
Pakistani Rangers at the Wagah-Attari border crossing
Indian crowd watching the ceremony
This ceremony takes place every evening immediately before sunset at the Wagah-Attari border, which as part of the Grand Trunk Road was the only road link between these two countries before the opening of the Aman Setu in Kashmir in 1999. The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both sides, and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations’ flags. It is called the Beating Retreat border ceremony on the international level. One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again. The spectacle of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border, as well as international tourists. In October 2010, Major General Yaqub Ali Khan of the Pakistan Rangers decided that the aggressive aspect of the ceremonial theatrics should be toned down. The soldiers of this ceremony are specially appointed and trained for this auspicious ceremony. They also have a beard and moustache policy for which they are paid additionally.
2014 suicide attack
Main article: 2014 Wagah border suicide attack
On 2 November 2014, approximately 60 people were killed and at least 110 people were injured in a suicide attack on the Pakistan side of the Wagah-Attari border. An 18 to 20 year-old attacker detonated a 5 kg (11 lb) explosive in his vest 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the crossing point in the evening right after the Wagah-Attari border ceremony ended.
2016 Indo-Pakistani tensions
After the India–Pakistan military confrontation on 29 September 2016 the border closing ceremony continued, but on the Indian side public attendance was denied on the evenings between 29 September and 8 October 2016. As a sign of the increased tensions, the BSF did not exchange sweets and greetings with Pakistani Rangers on Diwali 2016, despite a long tradition of doing so on major religious festivals like Bakr-Eid and Diwali, and also during Independence Days of both countries.