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Wagah: paved with good intentions

From B S Arun
DH News Service
WAGAH, Feb 18

Hectic activity marks the borders of India and Pakistan 72 hours before the landmark event which sees an Indian prime minister drive into Pakistan, setting a new beginning in the relations between the neighbours.

As prime ministers of India and Pakistan meet at the Wagah border on Saturday, atmosphere here is upbeat. The security forces as well as the civilian population are excited over the two events - the meeting of the prime ministers at the border and the starting of a new bus service between New Delhi and Lahore.

The historic event has led to the border area being given a facelift. The road leading to the Wagah border is being relaid and pavements whitewashed on either side of the border. The two post-gates of India and Pakistan, manned by Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers respectively, are being given a fresh coat of paint. While the railings are painted in the BSF colour of red and blue, the post-gate is painted afresh with the Indian colours of saffron- white-green.

The activity is hectic on the other side of border too. The pavements are whitewashed, the post- gates freshly painted by two painters from Lahore, grass mowed and hedges trimmed. Apart from these activities, there are frequent meetings going on between the two paramilitary forces on the border. The Indian and Pakistan authorities are together holding meetings almost every day for the last 4-5 days in which, from the Indian side, top officials of the BSF, external affairs ministry, Punjab Goverment, border police, etc, are taking part.

On Wednesday, a team of Special Protection Group (SPG) providing security to the prime minister, crossed over to the border to inspect arrangements in the border and at Lahore, where a series of meetings are scheduled between Mr A B Vajpayee and Mr Nawaz Sharif on Feruary 20 and 21.

NEW CHAPTER: Also to cross the border for security-related meetings was a team comprising SPG Director M R Reddy, Punjab Director General of Police Sarabjeet Singh, chief of Intelligence Bureau Shyamal Dutta and other officials of the Research and Analysing Wing. This too started a new chapter again - as hitherto, Indo-Pak military authorities used to meet once a month, interchanging the venue across the border every month. This routine, of course, is to ensure that military vigil on either side of the border is strictly observed.

Officials at the border, speaking on the condition of anonimity, noted that they were leaving no stone unturned as regards security in view of the prime ministers` visit.

''Is there any tension on the border as fundementalists in Pakistan have threatened to disrupt the visit?`` a senior BSF official was asked. ''No, it is only in newspapers,`` he remarked. ''There is lot of enthusiasm among the people,`` he said, as Gulab Singh, a farmer residing in the Wagah village nodded.

But despite the comradarie that marks the relations between the two countries of late, the officials at the border are tightlipped over the PM`s visit.

However, as per the information gathered here, Mr Vajpayee will arrive at the Sansi airport at Amritsar by 2 pm from New Delhi and he will inaugurate the Delhi- Lahore bus by travelling through the Wagah border into Pakistan, a length of 37 km. He will be given a ceremonial welcome at the Pakistani border by Mr Nawaz Sharif.

Accompanied by his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Vajpayee will head towards a specially built helipad at the border to fly to Lahore. Two more helicopters, carrying the officials of the two countries, will also head for Lahore.

The event has ensured modernisation of the immigration office at the border. The office, which handles on an average 40 people who cross over the border daily besides the 1000 passengers of the Samjhota Express twice a week, has been given computers recently. The work at the immigrationa and customs will see an increase in handling of passengers as the Delhi-Lahore bus, which incidentally was built in Bangalore - will ply four times a week, says Mr Simeerjit Singh, deputy superintendent of police (immigration) at the Wagah border.

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tally was built in Bangalore - will ply four times a week, says Mr Simeerjit Singh, deputy superintendent of police (immigration) at the Wagah border.

English News Page | Scanned Newspapers | Urdu News | | Interests

Return to Main Page Millat

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1999 Green World Publishers Inc.
Send your comments to editor@millat.com