Flexing Muscles with the Neighbour – The Border Closing Ceremony at Attari/Wagah

India and Pakistan aren’t really big friends, everyone knows that. At the border post between Attari and Wagah every evening both nations are coming a little closer though, when on the occasion of a border closing ceremony they are striking their flags and locking the border gate. The whole racket is a Love Parade like spectacle flavoured with a dash of nationalism and can be watched by Indians, Pakistanis as well as foreign tourists.

Imagine the Cold War and Soviets as well as American GIs building stadium-like stands around Checkpoint Charlie to invite the world watching them striking their flag every evening anew while holding a bizarre ceremony with a lot of hoopla. Most likely this metaphor is describing the Attari/Wagah border closing ceremony in the best way. In the figurative sense even the popcorn selling guys walking through rows of seat can be seen. Despite trying to huckster heated maize their intention is to market ceremony DVDs having a questionable quality.

After having passed some absurd security checks – hundreds of people have to talk through only one metal detector that is of course bleeping all the time, while the border guards are watching this with big disinterest – foreign tourists have to turn left to get to a separate grandstand that is closer to all things happening. Before the ceremony starts, many Indians are running flag swinging and chanting along the border road, some of them are even dancing there, making the border strip looking like Love Parade. This scenery gets only interrupted by the ever whistling military guards, whose wishes and thoughts have to be anticipated from their whistle…

After having been kicked-off by a professional warm-up animator wearing a “nice” balloon silken jogging outfit of communist production origin, the 15 minutes lasting spectacle starts, but at first the already closed gate gets opened again to make the show “logic”. First two ladies are marching towards the gate, while being followed step by step by all other border guards who are running in half-decent goose-step manner and with the aesthetics of a remote controlled video game character towards the border line. There they present some compliments and high kicks to the opposite side, strike the flag and close the border fence anew. Then the whole racket making military experts doubting about both armies’ credibility is already over again.

Fortunately the ceremony is a little self-deprecating and has a background of humorous originality as on the other hand we should not forget about the fact that both nations’ relation is basing on mutual nuclear deterrence. Dear Indians, just give your people something drivable and within the twinkling of an eye you got a serious weapon able to honk at and smash up everyone and anything; a weapon being so much more efficient a nuclear bomb could ever be ;-)

Attention: Carrying any kind of bags, backpacks, belt pouches or photo bags is not allowed and the border guards will not let you enter the area.


Attari/Wagah border post