Sunday 21 January 2018

Troops' routines too much for even toughest of soles

Andrew Buncombe in Kashmir

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 -- which 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 will now feature a performance with slightly less testosterone.

"We have proposed a lowering of the aggression," Himmat Singh, a senior officer with the Indian Border Security Force, told the 'Hindustan Times'. "The Pakistan Rangers have also agreed to the proposal."

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. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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