Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
One of the oddities of the troubled India-Pakistan relationship is a theatrical flag-lowering ceremony that the border guards of the two countries together enact every day at sunset at the Wagah checkpoint in the Punjab – for long the only road crossing.
Tall, very tall, guards from the Pakistani Rangers and men from India’s Border Security Force (BSF) with twirling moustaches goose-march up to the zero point, stamping their feet on the ground till the knees reach the chin, scowling at each other and shouting their way in a choreographed routine that ends in the lowering of the flags and the slamming of huge gates to the two countries.
Watched by baying crowds seated on grandstands on either side, the guards, wearing huge fan-shaped headresses, come within inches of each other, the hostility unmistakable, the gestures avowedly aggressive. The flags are lowered in clockwork precison; the soldiers exchange the briefest of handshakes, and the borders between India and Pakistan are sealed once more as they have been for most of the past 60 years.
For the last two years, the two sides had chosen to tone down some of the posturing during this retreat ceremony at the border, in keeping with the spirit of rapprochement that began with a peace process in 2004.