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The evening flag lowering ceremony at the India-Pakistan International Border near Wagah.

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.

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Wagah border

The Wagah border, often called the "Berlin wall of Asia",[1] is a ceremonial border on the India–Pakistan Border where each evening there is a retreat ceremony called 'lowering of the flags'.[2] At that time there is an energetic 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.[3][4][5] Troops of each country put on a show in their uniforms with their colorful turbans.[6] 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.[3]

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 Delhi–Lahore Bus service operating within the Punjab between Amritsar and Lahore, which was started in 2004 as relations between the two countries improved.[7]

History

During British rule the village was part of the Lahore Division of British Punjab.[8] 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 Srinagar–Muzaffarabad Bus in 1999.

On August 14–15, 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;[9][10] such candlelight vigils and the yearly 'Midnight Peace Festivals' were also reported in subsequent years.[11][12][13]

There have been many calls for the opening up of Wagah border to promote Indo-Pak trade through increased transport between India and Pakistan.[14] 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 2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff.[15]

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;[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] The trade has further improved since then through the Wagah post, despite the ups and downs of Indo-Pak relations.[19]

Audience at the evening ceremony, Wagah border (November 2008).

With over 8000 people visiting the border on an average day just on the Indian side,[20] governments have started developing Wagah as a tourist destination, improving tourist and custom facilities.[21] The Indian government plans to develop a global tourist complex at the Wagah-Attari border, which lies 30 km away from Amritsar.[22][23]

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,[24] 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.[25][26]

References

  1. ^ Percy, Steve (12 June 2000). "Through Asia's Berlin Wall". New Statesman. http://www.newstatesman.com/200006120023. 
  2. ^ Thorold, Crispin (13 March 2004). "Batting for unity in Pakistan". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/3502152.stm. 
  3. ^ a b "Mixed feelings on India-Pakistan border". BBC News. 14 August 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6945626.stm. 
  4. ^ Chakraverti, Sauvik (17 April 2005). "Shadow Lines: Let's Have Free Trade, Wagah Border Be Damned". The Times of India. http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1080402.cms. 
  5. ^ Kapur, Mridula (February 2001). "Sundown 'Madness' at Wagah". The South Asian Life & Times. http://www.the-south-asian.com/Feb2001/Wagah%20Sunset.htm. 
  6. ^ "Wagah Border". University of Alberta. http://www.ualberta.ca/~rnoor/wagah_border.html. 
  7. ^ "Manmohan looks forward to trade ties with Pakistan via Wagah". PakTribune. 28 September 2006. http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?155538. 
  8. ^ "Lahore District". The Imperial Gazetteer of India (Clarendon Press, Oxford) 16: 99. 1908. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/pager.html?objectid=DS405.1.I34_V16_105.gif. 
  9. ^ "On the edge of peace". Frontline 18 (18). 1–14 September 2001. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/fline/fl1818/18181040.htm. 
  10. ^ Jolly, Asit (15 August 2003). "Historic independence celebrations". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3152811.stm. 
  11. ^ Rana, Yudhvir (16 August 2003). "Lone candle flickers for peace at Wagah". The Times of India. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/132685.cms. "The peaceniks, who had gathered at Wagah land border for the 10th Midnight Peace Festival organised by Hind Pak Dosti Manch and Folklore Research Academy, forgot to carry their candles to the zero line." 
  12. ^ Rana, Yudhvir (16 August 2002). "Peace activists light candles at Wagah". The Times of India. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/19204011.cms. 
  13. ^ Rana, Yudhvir (16 August 2008). "Candlelight vigil held at Wagah". The Times of India. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Chandigarh/Candlelight_vigil_held_at_Wagah/articleshow/3369797.cms. 
  14. ^ "Gill urges opening of Wagah border for trade". The Times of India. Press Trust of India. 20 November 2005. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1301951.cms. 
  15. ^ "Border guards meet after three years". Dawn. 25 March 2004. http://www.dawn.com/2004/03/25/nat19.htm. 
  16. ^ Reddy, B. Muralidhar (28 July 2005). "Will opening Wagah border boost trade ties?". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/2005/07/28/stories/2005072813071500.htm. 
  17. ^ Ramesh, Randeep (2 October 2007). "Goods vehicles cross India-Pakistan border for first time in 60 years". Tehran Times. http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=154212. 
  18. ^ Page, Jeremy (28 September 2007). "Porters become excess baggage on border". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2547634.ece. 
  19. ^ "Cross-border trade at Wagah continues". Daily Times. 26 December 2008. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\12\26\story_26-12-2008_pg5_6. "The custom officials deputed at Wagah border said some 60 trucks of potato and tomato arrived, which were released after custom clearance. 'Lahore based importers have imported various items from India including potato, onions and tomato which were cleared by the customs officials,' they said." 
  20. ^ A, Divya (4 January 2009). "Wargames at Wagah". The Times of India. Times News Network. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sunday_TOI/Wargames_at_Wagah/articleshow/3932153.cms. "Usually, about 8,000 people visit every day." 
  21. ^ Dhawan, Himanshi (27 April 2006). "Centre plans to make Wagah a tourist hot spot". The Times of India. Times News Network. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1506662.cms. 
  22. ^ Israni, Naveena (25 Dec 2008). "Three wonders: Chandigarh,Jallianwala Bagh & Wagah Border". The Economic Times. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Features/ET_Travel/Three_wonders_ChandigarhJallianwala_Bagh__Wagah_Border/articleshow/msid-3888629,curpg-2.cms. 
  23. ^ "Now, a global tourist resort at Wagah-Attari border". The Economic Times. 7 October 2008. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News_By_Industry/Services/Travel/Now_a_global_tourist_resort_at_Wagah-Attari_border_/articleshow/3570596.cms. 
  24. ^ "Wagah sunset parade set for friendly turn". The Telegraph. 5 April 2004. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1040405/asp/nation/story_3088207.asp. 
  25. ^ Rana, Yudhvir (8 November 2006). "BSF tones down shrill drill at Wagah border". The Times of India. Times News Network. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/361127.cms. 
  26. ^ "Wagah ceremony postures changed". The Hindu. 9 November 2006. http://www.thehindu.com/2006/11/09/stories/2006110905650100.htm. 

External links

Coordinates: 31°36′16.9″N 74°34′22.5″E / 31.604694°N 74.572917°E / 31.604694; 74.572917

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Wagah border (Indian side)
Wagah border (Indian side)

Wagah (or Wagha) is a border town straddling the line between Pakistan and India, 29 km from the town of Lahore on the Pakistani side and 27 km from Amritsar on the Indian side. This is the only crossing point between Pakistan and India that is regularly open to foreigners.

Get in

The closest significant town to Wagah from the Indian side is Amritsar, Punjab.

By train

The Samjhauta Express from Delhi to Lahore passes through Wagah. The last station on the Indian side is Attari.

By road

From Lahore Station, take a bus, or taxi. Minibus No.4 leaves from outside Lahore Railway Station every 15 minutes (~US$0.20), while a taxi should cost US$8. The trip takes around half an hour.

From Amritsar, Wagah is about 45 minutes away by car. There are public buses to Attari station, from where you can continue the last 3 km to the border by cyclerickshaw.

Most tourists can take a taxi through their hotels for a round trip, which includes the waiting time at Wagah. As of Jan 09, a typical fare for such a trip from Amritsar is about Rs. 800 (US $17)

Get around

If you're planning on actually crossing the border, you should aim to get there as early as possible. As of 2009, the border is open every day from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Border formalities can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over two hours, and you will need to arrange a visa before you arrive.

Regular buses or taxis are not allowed into the no-man's land between the countries, so unless you're on one of the few deluxe international buses, you'll have to walk across the 500m between the border posts yourself. Porters -- blue coats for the Indians, green coats for the Pakistanis -- can carry your belongings for a few dollars.

See

There is daily flag raising and lowering ceremony at Wagah Border, done with fascinating pomp and ceremony that involves lots of tall soldiers in massive turbans goose-stepping about and slamming gates. Both the Indian and Pakistani border forces do this and it has become a tradition for people from both sides gather and see this. Both sides synchronise their parade and the entire event is meant to create a feel-good/patriotic fervour amongst the crowd.

As of Jan 2009, the flag lowering ceremony which happens around 4:15 PM everyday has become the main event for tourists. In addition, there is now a short cultural programme also done by local folk dancers (Bhangra) for the waiting crowd before the flag lowering. Please take note that a peak crowd of upto 2000+ people can assemble on the Indian side on weekends/long weekends/public holidays. The crowd consists of both tourists & locals. The noise and atmosphere of the assembled crowds on both sides of the border is similar to that of a sporting match and very entertaining.

The border gates have a visitor gallery on each side, basically concrete steps created around the border main road. This allows most people in the crowd to get a seat but it is not uncommon to see up to 500-1000 people standing at the periphery. There are metal fences to help direct and control the crowds in and out of the seating areas.

Ideally, one should reach the border gates by 3:30 PM to get some seating if you're going on a rush day.

The seating area is as follows:

  • VIP seating - closest to the gates and requires a special pass which can be made from the BSF station near the Amristsar bypass road a couple of days in advance.
  • Ladies exclusive - this is new, a section where only ladies, small children are allowed. This comes after the VIP seating and is little further from the gates (about 80m away)
  • General seating - These days (Jan 09), this seating is given to men only as it tends to get very crowded and congested during rush days. Occasional pushing/jostling may happen.

Cellphones, Cameras (any kind), men's wallets are allowed. No covered bags (including ladies purses & handbags) are allowed inside the visitor areas. However, border personnel allow carrying of clear plastic bags with few snacks, water, childrens food etc. The restrictions are usually dependent on the crowd and perceived security alertness on that day.

For tourists coming in to see the ceremony, note that the taxis/cars need to be parked about 500m away from the entry gates to the border area. You will need to walk in and reach the visitor gallery.

Be prepared for minor traffic jams when the ceremony has finished as up to 200-300 vehicles try and exit around the same time. The main road to Wagah is being widened to a 4 lane one, and should be ready by Jun 09.

  • There are no tickets to see this event, it is free for viewing for anyone on the Indian side as of Jan 09.

Do

Relax at nearby Jallo Park, or enjoy in Suzo Water Park.

  • You can buy some snacks/drinks at the entry gate and also along the roadside as you are walking the 500 or so metres to the seating area.
  • Lot of local boys sell DVDs of the ceremony, selling for about Rs. 20 (< US $1). Be careful of pickpockets.

Eat

There is an official tourist center, called "Aman Umeed" at the entry gate. It is a nice clean facility with bathrooms etc and has comfortable seating, although food options are very limited inside.

However, there are 2-3 large local food stalls outside the gate opposite the tourist center which serve food, offer packaged snacks and soft drinks. You can take these inside when you watch the ceremony.

Sleep

the only place to sleep is on the floor

Contact

Note that cellphones may not work here, as calls/SMSs are jammed. There r jammers at wagah... so no mobile phone service

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Simple English

Wagah (Hindi: वाघा, Urdu: واهگه, Punjabi: ਵਾਘਾ) is the only road international border crossing between the Republic of India and Pakistan, and lies on the G.T. Road between the cities of Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan. The first town on the Indian side is Attari.

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