Tribune News Service
Amritsar, January 26
As India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day, the flag-hoisting, ceremonial drill and Beating Retreat was held at the joint check post at Attari.
BSF Director General Rakesh Asthana graced the occasion which was incidentally his maiden visit to Punjab after assuming the charge.
The occasion was celebrated in a low-key affair due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The usual patriotic spirit of the occasion was a miss due to the absence of general spectators. Only the BSF troops and close associates of the defence and family members were allowed to sit in the gallery.
Asthana also addressed the troops.
Keeping in view the repeated instances of infiltration and smuggling attempts, the BSF is plugging the loopholes at the India-Pakistan border, he said.
“BSF is the first line of defence committed to defending the country. We are in the process of upgrading every aspect of the operations of the BSF and our technology, including the anti-drone technology,” said Asthana.
About the action being taken, post-detection of a tunnel near the fence in Jammu’s Pansar area, Asthana anticipated that more such tunnels could be there to push trained armed militants and other forbidden material into India.
“The tunnel was a fact. We are constantly in the process of detecting more tunnels which are being used for not only pushing the contraband but also infiltration to India from the other side,” he said.
A cross-border tunnel — around 150-metre-long and 30-foot-deep — was unearthed by the Border Security Force along the International Border in Jammu on January 23, the fourth such tunnel found in the past six months.
Nonetheless, the BSF and Pakistan Rangers conducted the joint coordination parade as the tradition goes but the gallery was devoid of spectators in view of Covid-19 threat.
The cultural programme was conducted, including the live band displayed by the BSF. The students of historic Khalsa College, Amritsar, performed bhangra and gidha on the occasion.
The exchange of sweets with the Pakistani counterparts too was avoided due to the pandemic protocol.
The BSF and Pakistan Rangers have not been exchanging sweets on special occasions at the border since India abrogated Article 370, which granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.
The troops at Attari-Wagah border had last exchanged sweets on Eid-ul-Fitr and on Republic Day in 2019.
India and Pakistan had suspended the entry of spectators in view of Covid-19. On the Indian side, only the flag-lowering ceremony is conducted at sunset.
Since March 7 last year, public was not allowed at the Attari border, though Pakistan has reopened its door for spectators from Wagah. Since then, Pakistan Rangers have been holding their daily military parade and ceremony on the normal course.