Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wagah border on high alert for Queen's Baton Relay

June 23 (IANS) Indian border guards at the Wagah border with Pakistan have been put on maximum alert as India prepares to welcome the Queen's Baton Relay on Friday for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in October.

This is the first time that the baton will enter India after covering nearly 170,000 km across several Commonwealth nations in different continents.

The baton is scheduled to enter India from Pakistan through the Wagah border at 9.25 a.m. Friday. It will then pass through most states and union territories, travelling over 20,000 km before finally reaching New Delhi Sep 30.

The Border Security Force (BSF), which mans the 553-km-long Radcliffe Line between India and Pakistan in Punjab, has stepped up security at the Attari-Wagah joint border check-post.

The 19th CWG is the biggest sporting event to be hosted by India after the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi. The national capital is hosting the CWG Oct 3-14.

Himmat Singh, BSF inspector general of Punjab frontier, told IANS: 'Security, which remains tight along the international border, has been put on maximum alert for the baton relay.'

'Normally, at the Attari-Wagah border we have spectators only during the retreat ceremony in the evening, but this function is scheduled in the morning. Therefore, we have to take extra care while making security arrangements,' he added.

Special security arrangements have been made by the BSF and night patrolling has been enhanced, Singh said.

'We are supporting the Commonwealth Games committee in every possible way,' he added.

In the last 11 months, suspected terrorists in Pakistan fired rockets and automatic gunfire into Indian territory at least five times. Most of the incidents happened in the vicinity of the Attari border, about 30 km from the Sikh holy city of Amritsar.

Besides ensuring security, the BSF will put up its bands to play during the arrival ceremony. Traditional 'bhangra' and 'gidda' dancers and other performers will welcome the baton.

Several VIPs, including Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, senior politicians and international level sportspersons, are expected to be present during the ceremony.

Singh said it was difficult to comment on the exact number of guests expected.

'Though only special guests and invitees will be allowed, we haven't got any intimation about the actual number of people. There is a stadium sort of facility with tiers of seats which can accommodate around 6,000-8,000 spectators easily,' he pointed out.

Pakistan Olympics Association president Syed Arif Hassan would hand over the baton to Indian Olympics Association (IOA) chief Suresh Kalmadi.

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Amritsar - about 250 km from Chandigarh - under which Attari falls, is very excited and looking forward to the event.

'It is a matter of great pride that the Queen's Baton Relay is entering India via the Attari border and I am enthusiastically waiting for this big day. I will be definitely present there to welcome it. We are extending all our support to make the event a huge success,' Sidhu said.

'Sports is one thing that significantly unites all people - irrespective of caste, creed and community. Therefore, I urge people from all walks of life to come forward to extend a gala welcome to the baton,' he added.

The baton for the Delhi CWG was launched by Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace in London Oct 29 last year in the presence of Indian President Pratibha Patil.

Raja Sidhu, nodal officer of IOA, said: 'Everything is well-planned. All the formalities have been completed to avoid any last stage glitch.'

(Jaideep Sarin and Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at and

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