A famous poet once had written “And miles to go before we sleep.” This is exactly what one feels when one visits the Wagah border in between the two countries of India and Pakistan. With the Grand Trunk Road connecting the cities of Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan, this border line is a testimony to past Indian history. Year 1947, when the Radcliffe line was drawn. The village Wagah is the venue for this controversial line which divided it into two. Today with Eastern Wagah in India and Western Wagah in Pakistan, the Wagah border certainly comes across as a very interesting tourist spot.

Also referred to as the “Berlin Wall of Asia” this is a place where the Border Security Force of India and the Pakistan Rangers Soldiers share the same land. In fact a local here says that the ceremony that is held here every evening is quite a regular feature and they have got used to it. Called the retreat ceremony, there is an affair of lowering the flags every evening here as both sides of the security forces call it a day. This ceremony has been taking place from the year 1959.

The ceremony is a very power packed, charged affair with the soldiers imitating the assertiveness of the Cockerel. With a lot of apparent aggression and hostility, the soldiers of either side, parade in their respective uniforms. With the colorful turbans forming a powerful headgear, the leaders of the two groups also sometimes walk over to the other side for inspecting day to day matters. In fact, much of the relation shared by the two countries are almost dependent on the inter communication in this border.

The Wagah Border is thus testimony to a lot of historical events and has also witnessed many important issues. The very famous Samjhauta Express passes through Attari railway station which lies around 5 km from the village of Wagah. This train passes through Lahore and comes from Delhi. This border besides having historical importance is also a major communication hub between the two countries. With the National Highway of India originating from this important spot, it has proven to have made itself a mark on the map of India. Besides, there are bus services between Lahore and Delhi. The Wagah border is the place where the service begins. This bus service incidentally has been operative since it was started in the year 2004. With this transit venue being inaugurated the relations between India and Pakistan went upward.

Rahim Chacha living in Wagah has been witness to the Partition post independence and is one of the few villagers here who have chosen to be on this side of the continent. He says with a lot of candid views “When the British ruled here, this village of Wagah came under the subdivision of Lahore in Punjab under the British. Post Independence the Lahore subdivision also got split up into two, like the village.” He had a lot of poignant emotion as he said it and attributed the present day condition to the scenes after partition.

When asked about how life has changed here, Chacha said with the same amount of candidness, “Nothing has changed, only attitude has changed. Even today we can see the porters carrying goods across the border. Earlier there were a link between the countries –at the junction of Ganda Singh Wala and Hussainiwala at Ferozepur. In the year 1970, it got closed. Then the Aman SEtu in the state of Kashmir became the joining link in the year 1999. This Aman Setu was the link where the bus service could ply between Muzzafarbad and Srinagar. In the Interim period, this Wagah border was the only means of communication by road between the two countries. “Chacha sure had witnessed a good deal of activities here and many like him still live in these portions of the Wagah border.

This border witnesses different scenes during Independence Day. In fact in the year 2001, there was a historical lighting of candles on the days of August 14 and August 15, wherein around 40,000 people from Pakistan and around one tenth of that number of Indians participated. This was done with an effort towards reconciliation. Wagah border thus stands strong amidst such acts of unity and proudly sees many more such candlelight marches, rallies and festivals like the “Midnight peace festival”.

As a Government official here recently observed that the Wagah border is the place where a lot of efforts are being taken for promoting Indo Pak activities on trade and commerce. If the transport is enhanced between the two countries, he added that this would be a good situation. In fact, statistics show that in the year 2005, in the month of March, representatives of the Indian Border Security Force met up with their contemporary Pakistan rangers here at Wagah border. They made an effort to discuss the issue of the border that existed in both the countries. This was a major breakthrough for both the countries as this was happening around three years following the famous standoff between India and Pakistan in the year 2001 – 2002.

Again the summer of 2005, saw a change when Pakistan allowed some five items of domestic value to be carted in. This was brought in through this very Wagah border. It was important because there was no tax charged on this. Further to this, when one reads about how trucks of food grains passed between the two countries in the winter of 2006, then one is filled with patriotism and pride. To think that this happened after 60 years of Independence makes it an even more important event. More than 1400 porters were hired for this and they were also asked to unload the stuff from the Lorries and other trucks. This kind of activity not only increased the trade activities but also landed up filling in the cash coffers.  Amounting to the tune of around 1.3 billion dollars, this trade activity leaped to an amount of 10 billion dollars by the year 2010. Thus the Wagah border is the place where all this has happened in the past and is still happening. The Wagah port here started getting recognition.

Gulshan a tourist guide in Wagah recounts how tourism has gained importance here. According to him more than 8000 people visit the place at an average and so the Indian Government has plans of converting this place into a tourist destination with proper facilities. In fact, the Government of India has huge plans of creating a tourist complex here which would be famous internationally. Plans of it being built on the border of Wagah and Attari are on and it would lie around 30 km away from the city of Amristsar.

With so many developments it is no wonder that there are talks of reducing the level of activity during the Wagah ceremony. So after the winter of 2006, the level of aggression as regards to the ceremonies is much less thus proving the talks effective. Today, the entire affair is toned down and the soldiers here are also a little relieved that they do not have to strain their knees so much like before. Anyway they are performing the goose stepping whole day so the fact that this ceremony was made flexible was more acceptable to all.

The Wagah border is a place to visit during sun set. With the retreat ceremony in the background and the perfect co-ordination of the Sutlej Rangers and the Indian soldiers is a wonderful sight to experience. Sarah an international tourist who witnessed this ceremony linked it to the Changing of Royal Guard in London. With the bugles blowing from both borders, Wagah experiences the scene of seeing both the flags – the Indian National Flag and the Pakistani flag brought down and the lights going off quite unceremoniously. The switching off of the lights signals the end of the day and a loud applause follows.

The army personnel at Wagah is often visited by many personalities. Such visits take their mind off their schedule and the absolutely charged ambience here is a perfect tribute to the soldiers who died as martyrs. With slogans rendering the air with patriotism, it is interesting to see the way both the parties shout their slogans to boost the morale of the respective soldiers. Though the scene is grim here it is up to the tourist who wants to take a photo to capture such moments for ever. There is a paved path here which leads us to the main gate. Here one can take photos of the entire crowd here and if it is taken before or after the ceremony is over then one gets a fair idea.

With rickshaws being the main transport to Wagah, this place certainly evokes a lot of patriotic emotions.