Soldiers take joint action to tone down high-stepping

For decades, the high-stepping, border closing ceremony at Wagah-Attari has been an opportunity for both Indian and Pakistani soldiers to put on their most aggressive, intimidating display of martial rigour.

But such behaviour comes at a price. Over the years, senior officers have complained that the goose-stepping action and fierce stamping included in the so-called Beating the Retreat ceremony has led to serious ankle and knee injuries among their men. As a result, the two countries – nuclear-armed neighbours that have gone to war four times since they secured their independence from Britain – have decided to take it easy with each other.

Reports suggest the flag-lowering event that takes place every evening at the border, located approximately halfway between the Pakistani city of Lahore and the Indian city of Amritsar, will now feature a performance with slightly less testosterone.

"We have proposed a lowering of the aggression in the gestures during the daily parade, and subsequently took a unilateral decision to implement that," Himmat Singh, a senior officer with the Indian Border Security Force (BSF), told the Hindustan Times. "The Pakistan Rangers have also agreed to the proposal, and toned down their drill."

The daily ceremony attracts hordes of tourists from both countries, who take seats overlooking the border. As the soldiers march towards each other, feet up high and eyes glaring, the patriotic crowds shout and cheer for their side.

Such is the co-ordination required by the soldiers – each country allows only its tallest and fiercest-looking troops to participate – that they often hold joint practice sessions. DVDs of the event are big sellers in shops, both in the Indian border village of Wagah, and at Pakistan's Attari.

The agreement to lower the temperature, coming a week after bad-tempered, ineffectual diplomatic talks in Islamabad, is not the first time that officers have tried to address the problem of "mild to severe" joint injuries accrued at the border ceremony.

Last year it was reported that such was the concern about the injuries to the Pakistan Rangers and Indian BSF troops that a special spring mat was to be laid down for the parade. It is not clear whether this was ever done.

The crossing between the two countries acts as something of a barometer in the relationship between Delhi and Islamabad at any given time. Several years ago, prior to the 2008 Mumbai attacks and when relations were warmer, there was talk of boosting cross-border trade and even of opening direct flights between the two capitals. Yet, while a train and bus service still crosses the border, the number of people who make the trip is not high. People on both sides complain about the difficulty of getting a visa. Cement and tomatoes are the only cargo that gets regular clearance to cross.

Last week's meeting in Islamabad was a disappointment for those hoping the two countries could agree to restart the so-called "composite dialogue" that existed before the 2008 attacks. Despite meeting for several hours, foreign ministers Shah Mehmood Quereshi and SM Krishna failed to made meaningful progress.

Both sides blamed the other, though neither resorted to goose-stepping theatrics.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee