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Wagah-like retreat ceremony on India-Bangladesh border

Abhishek Law   Petrapole | Updated on November 06, 2013

BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh personnel lower flags of thetwo countries at the start of the joint Border Retreat ceremonybetween India and Bangladesh at Petrapole in North 24 Parganas onWednesday. — Ashoke Chakrabarty





Renditions of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam filled the air as India and Bangladesh, sharing a common link with these two Bengali poets, launched the Joint Retreat Ceremony at the Petrapole-Benapole border outpost on Wednesday.

Petrapole is located some 120-km north of Kolkata in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Benapole is the Bangladeshi side of the border.

The ceremony — including parades, march-past and lowering of the national flag of both the countries — will henceforth be a daily routine, at sundown, on the eastern border.

But symbolic to a more cordial and fast improving Indo-Bangla relationship, the Retreat at Petrapole-Benapole border will not have the aggressiveness of the exercise on the Attari-Wagah border on the West.

“The ceremonial parade should reflect the friendly relationship between the two neighbours, sharing over 4,000 km of land border and nearly $5.2 billion in trade,” said a senior government official present at the ceremony.

Bangladesh is India’s largest trade partner in the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) region, comprising India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. While songs of Nazrul and Tagore reflected the mood of bonhomie, Bangladesh Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir set the ball rolling. Recalling India’s role in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, Alamgir said the deep cultural ties between the two countries should act as a plank for improving ties.

“The Joint Retreat will not be restricted as a mere formality. It is another positive step in improving India-Bangladesh relations,” he said.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde agreed. “Historically, we have been close to the people of Bangladesh. We share the same culture and heritage as them. The Joint Retreat Ceremony will help us strengthen our ties,” he said.

According to Shinde, India has already initiated steps such as simplifying visa rules for businessmen, students and those seeking medical treatment. Extradition treaties have also been signed.

Better co-ordination, he said, had also helped reduce incidents of cross-border violence.

“I do not think that the (current) political unrest in Bangladesh will impact relationships. It must be temporary. Relationships have always been good,” Shinde said in response to a specific question from the media. According to a senior Border Security Force official, similar Joint Retreat Ceremonies would soon be a part of daily ritual at the Changrabandha-Burimari border post (in West Bengal) and the Akhura-Phulbari border post (in Tripura).

The BSF has decided to construct a viewers’ gallery, as at the Wagah border. A museum displaying the legacy and achievements of the BSF is also being planned at Petrapole.

> abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 06, 2013

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