India, Pak tone down Wagah ceremony

Last Updated: Saturday, October 30, 2010 - 23:45

Islamabad: Indian and Pakistani border officials on Saturday decided to tone down the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah land border post - an event marked by displays of aggression that has become a major draw for tourists on both sides of the frontier since 1959.

Addressing the media after five-day talks in Lahore on border issues, India`s Border Security Force Director General Raman Shrivastava and Pakistan Rangers official Maj Gen Muhammad Yaqoob Khan announced that both sides had decided to end their "aggressive approach" to the flag-lowering ceremony.

Khan said both sides had decided to "cool down the process of lowering their flags".

Both border forces have also decided to exchange information on prisoners and to take steps for their release, he said.

Thousands of people attend the flag-lowering ceremony held every day before sunset at Wagah, located about 30 km from Lahore.

Border guards from India and Pakistan lower the flags while putting on a theatrical display marked by aggressive gestures and orchestrated boot-stomping.

The 40-minute ritual, which has been performed since 1959, has become a major draw for domestic and foreign tourists on both sides of the border.

Media reports in July had suggested that both sides would tone down displays of aggression, including the boot-stomping, but Pakistani officials had later denied the
reports.

During their bi-annual talks, the BSF and Pakistan Rangers officials discussed incidents of unprovoked firing across the border, killing of people who mistakenly cross the
frontier, illegal defence constructions and illegal border crossings and smuggling.

Besides the speedy release and repatriation of prisoners from jails, the two sides agreed to make joint efforts to control smuggling and intelligence-sharing to curb
drug trafficking.

Responding to a question, Khan said most issues between the two countries could not be resolved unless the Kashmir issue and differences on sharing river waters are
addressed.

Shrivastava said the BSF and Pakistan Rangers officials could only discuss border issues in such meetings and all bigger issues were the domain of the governments.

Responding to a question, he ruled out the presence of five heroin factories in India and said heroin is smuggled into India from different countries.

He said he had arrived in Pakistan with a message of peace and love and the Pakistani government, people, media and border force had reciprocated these feelings.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, October 30, 2010 - 23:45

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