Military theater at the India Pakistan border

Pakistan and India share a border that is well over 1000 miles long, but in all that distance, there is only one road that goes directly across the border. Or at least that’s what is claimed by the Wikipedia entry for Wagah, a town that straddles the Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) in the restless Punjab. A little poking around with Google Earth reveals that you can cross the border a few other places (like the Kasur Gate), but it’s absolutely incredible how few opportunities there are given the length of the frontier.

All this focuses great attention on the Wagah nightly border-closing ceremony. Military ceremonies have always been about theater, and the intense mixture of chauvinism and bitterness in the Punjab have ratcheted the cold war anxiety up to such stratospheric levels that the resulting theater would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. My dad recently sent me a link to this video of the border-closing ceremony. I find it simultaneously stirring and hilarious.

Here’s another good (slightly longer) video of the same ceremony. I watch this and I keep reminding myself that farcical military silly-walks theater is better than war. In fact, this video was produced by someone who knows a thing or two about silly walks: former Python troupe member Michael Palin.

And one more thing. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen this kind of preening and strutting somewhere else. Ah yes, that’s it.

3 thoughts on “Military theater at the India Pakistan border”

  1. Military tradition is just bizarre. We are all drawn to it for whatever reaon, but OUR guys never look silly right? I remember seeing the changing of the gaiurd at tthe tomb of the unknown soldier in East Berlin. Goose Stepping Gaurds, practiced military precision and remember thinking how goofy it seemed. But then look at the Buckingham Palace gaurds and the whole tradition of not blinking in the face of ridiculous tourists trying to get them to blink!
    For sheer insanity, look no further than North Korea:

    But closer to home, you have this, to me anyway, crazy rifle inspection at the changing of the gaurd in Arlington National Cemetary:

  2. Wow, I love that Tomb of the Unknown Soldier video. It’s theater pure and simple and that inspector is just hamming it up and loving every minute of it. Don’t you just know he was in the high school production of “Hello Dolly!” and secretly wishes he could star in “Rent”. I bet he does a mean robot on the dance floor.

  3. By the way, “…farcical military silly-walks theater is better than war.”
    Best quote ever!

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