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Beyond borders

Apart from the geographical standpoint, boundaries have more significance than that of a hedge and often lend themselves to establishing a common ground for goodwill between people across these lines of demarcation, writes Rameshinder Singh Sandhu
Last Updated : 14 August 2021, 19:30 IST

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A file photo of Border Security Force and Pakistani Rangers personnel taking part in the beating retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Attari-Wagah border on the eve of Independence Day. PTI Photo
A file photo of Border Security Force and Pakistani Rangers personnel taking part in the beating retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Attari-Wagah border on the eve of Independence Day. PTI Photo
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The Upper Waterton Lake. This is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the United States and Canada
The Upper Waterton Lake. This is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the United States and Canada
Iguazu Falls are in Argentina and Brazil and are also bordered by Paraguay
Iguazu Falls are in Argentina and Brazil and are also bordered by Paraguay

Each year as the Independence days of Pakistan and India (August 14 and 15) approach, the borders along the two countries turn vibrant with celebrations and there is an air of congeniality that leaves most tourists in awe. However, due to the Covid-19 threat, the Independence Day celebrations on the Attari-Wagah border will remain a subdued affair this year too. With the decades-long tradition of holding a candlelight march up to the border restricted, peaceniks may just carry out a symbolic march at the Integrated Checkpost.

Political boundaries around countries are no wonder special as more wars have been caused by boundary dispute than any other source of political contention but it turns out that these borders can also be a window into the admirable world of peace and goodwill.

Having lived in Switzerland, I passed through many friendly borders during my travels to various pockets of Europe not just by bus, train or car but also on foot.

The most memorable was the road border just outside the last Swiss station of Chiasso before Italy’s Como, known for its mesmerising lake. As I had arrived quite early from Lucerne to meet a friend, I decided to go for a walk on the other side as I knew that I only had to show my Swiss residence card. But none of them was interested in seeing any ID and I was in Italy in less than a minute exchanging pleasantries. While most Italians were still deep in sleep, I got a whiff of their bakeries that were busy prepping for the day. After about half an hour, I returned and indulged in an engrossing chat with the border officials. I also got myself clicked at the border, handing my camera to one of them.

During weekends, I often visited Lake Constance. Intriguingly, this lake shares its shoreline with Switzerland, Germany and Austria, which sits along the northern side of Switzerland. There’s a walking and cycling track all around it, making one travel to three countries within no time and without any restrictions. Ferries run for scenic trips with flags of all three nations fluttering to symbolise their unity.

During my visit to North America, I was mesmerised by the Upper Waterton Lake — three hours away from Calgary by car — as half of it is in Alberta, Canada and the other half in Montana, USA. Like the Lake of Constance, ferries run trips beginning from Waterton town of Canada which includes a stop in Goat Haunt, Montana. One gets to cross the liquid border where there are no immigration controls and one can see a variety of animals on the hills around freely crossing the border. The lake is part of the first international peace park of the world, formed in 1932 when Alberta and Montana decided to combine their parks, known as Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. UNESCO has labelled it as Biosphere Reserve for its rich flora and fauna and since 1995 it was also declared as a World Heritage Site. And you may only have a Canadian visitor visa but through the ferry journey to Goat Haunt, one can be on American soil (dedicated zone) without any visa.

The same is the case when you are at Peace Arch Park, which sits at the road border between British Columbia, Canada and Washington, USA as it’s also split into two halves in both the countries. There are small pillars that mark the borderline with which like many, I have taken pictures with one foot in the US and the other in Canada.

In the centre is the peace arch monument with gates bolted on its walls, with the description, ‘May these gates never close’ along with many other messages of love and peace. It’s the first international gateway ever erected for peace between nations in 1921 by Washington lawyer Samuel Hill. Located on the coast and about 50 kilometres away from Vancouver, it’s very popular for picnics, art exhibitions and concerts among people from both sides.

I was equally fascinated to learn about the Euro Airport being operated by France and Switzerland and shared by Germany but I wasn’t privy to this fact till I arrived here to catch my flight to England, mainly booked from here since it offered the cheapest fare! As I began to explore, I soon learnt that the airport is mostly on French soil, where France provided the land and Switzerland took care of the infrastructure. Located near the border points of all three nations, it is 3.5 kilometres from Basel (Switzerland), 20 kilometres from Mulhouse (France) and 46 kilometres from Freiburg (Germany).

I adored taking note of French and Swiss police staffers and border officials in respective uniforms roaming everywhere, just like the passengers. At the immigration desk too, depending upon the turn, one either faces the French or the Swiss officer!

Did you know that the famous water curtains Niagara Falls are also at the New York (USA) Ontario (Canada) border while Iguazu Falls are in Argentina and Brazil and are bordered by Paraguay?

There’s indeed much thrill in going beyond borders, boundaries and barriers.

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Published 14 August 2021, 19:28 IST

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