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Rediff.com  » Business » It's business as usual at Attari-Wagah border

It's business as usual at Attari-Wagah border

January 11, 2013 14:33 IST

Pakistani and Indian flagsA day after it was reported troops across the border had killed two Indian soldiers at the line of control in Kashmir, it is business as usual between India and Pakistan, at least at Attari-Wagah border in Amritsar.

A foggy morning at the Attari-Wagah border hasn't dampened trade there.

A long queue of trucks loaded with dry dates is entering India from Pakistan.

Another queue of trucks carries goods to Pakistan through the trade gate at the integrated check-post.

In the last nine months, such a large number of trucks have passed through the land route here that now, the zero line is hardly visible at the trade gate.

Pakistani truck drivers patiently wait for their turn to cross the border.

They are cordial with the Indian press, which is anxious to interact with them.

However, the Rangers guarding the border of Pakistan at the Swarn Jayanti Dwar of the Attari border, used for passenger travel, don't seem as cordial. Standing barely a few inches from the guards on the other side, separated by the zero line, they don't interact with each other.

This is not because of Thursday's news; it's a drill -- they are not supposed to talk to each other.

"As there is no communication between the two, killing of Indian soldiers at the line of control can't be because of personal animosity," says a government official.

However, the question of how long the trust between the two sides sustains is on everyone's mind.

And, it's evident at the Attari-Wagah border -- 25 trucks carrying consumer goods from India were barred from entering Pakistan at the Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point at the line of control in Poonch district of Kashmir.

At the Attari border, an enthusiastic team of reporters on an official tour of the check-post requests a Pakistani soldier to come towards the zero line for a photo-op with his Indian counterpart.

The soldier obliges, albeit maintaining the stern look on his face.

As the visitors stand close to the zero line, the soldiers look tense.

Just a step forward by a visitor can land the jawans on both sides in trouble.

During the 'lowering of flags' before sunset, the stern expression on the faces of the Border Security Force jawans might lead a first-time visitor to think it's because of the tension at the line of control two days earlier.

However, customs officials at the check-post who've witnessed many such retreats, don't think so.

At the retreat, not a single shot was fired.

As is customary, soldiers from both sides shake hands during the retreat, dispelling the fears of those who read too much into their expressions.

The visitors' gallery on the Indian side is packed to capacity; one can see a few empty seats on the other side.

However, when it comes to cheering their soldiers and shouting patriotic slogans, competition between both sides is stiff.

At the end of the ceremony, some visitors assemble at the borderline of their respective countries.

The distance between the civilians of the two countries is about two metres but all they do is wave at each other.

Apparently, security forces don't allow the people to interact.

According to hearsay, intelligence officials from both countries are present at the border to ensure no information is shared between people across the border.

An official from the customs department says instances such as Tuesday's don't really affect communication between them and their Pakistani counterparts.

Vrishti Beniwal in Attari border (Amritsar)
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