Beneath the spontaneous warmth between Indian and Pakistan lurk dark suspicions and fears.
Six and a half years since the two countries were created, the Wagah border is still the only road link between India and Pakistan. Wagah, the only road crossing the border between India and Pakistan is located 32 kilometers from Amritsar. The road connects Amritsar, Punjab, India with Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.
Wagah, is a village which got divided in 1947 during the partition. Today, the eastern part of the village resides in India.
I first visited Wagah Border last year during the winter’s. The soldier’s are more than 7 ft tall, but if you count the huge fan-shaped headdresses they are much more, they wiggle at each other like peacocks, just inches apart either side of the India-Pakistan border. For 45 minutes every sunset they high kick, speed march and shout their way through a choreographed routine that ends in the lowering of both flags and the slamming of the border gates. Called the ‘Retreat Ceremony’ is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Forces) and Pakistan (Pakistani Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959.
Borders can sometimes reflect the reality of the countries that lie within them. For India and Pakistan, the land border at Wagah reflects both the confusion that lies at the heart of our current realities and the history that gave rise to them. The relationship between India and Pakistan is made up of love and hate, and a fair confusion which occurs because of regular uneven occurrences near the border.
Recently, I read a short story of Hardev Singh, a farmer, whose family’s land which was marooned in no-man’s land in 1947. He hates the crowds and the military posturing just up the fence at the sunset ceremony. It might be a Ceremony for many but for few its just loss of their land and families.
By itself, a settlement with India will not make Pakistan a safe place. But it would encourage a series of changes— building up democratic institutions, spending more on health and education, rejecting Islamist terrorism. Until that happens, Pakistan will remain a disappointment to itself and a danger to the world.
To bring peace, the Guns Must Fall silent.