Here’s what life is like on the border between India and Pakistan, one of the world’s most disputed regions

Pakistani rangers and Indian Border Security Force officers lower their national flags during a daily parade at the Pakistan-India joint checkpoint at Wagah.

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Pakistani rangers and Indian Border Security Force officers lower their national flags during a daily parade at the Pakistan-India joint checkpoint at Wagah.
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Thomson Reuters

  • India and Pakistan were divided at the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Since then, they’ve been at odds, mostly over Kashmir, a majority-Muslim state controlled by India, Pakistan, and China.
  • After three all-out wars, several border skirmishes, and terrorist attacks, Pakistan and India aren’t any closer to peaceful coexistence, and now both have nuclear weapons.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

The border between India and Pakistan is symbolic of decades of painful history.

The two countries were both part of British India, but colonial rule ended in 1947 and India and Pakistan were split in two, divided along religious lines by a British lawyer who hadn’t been to India before. Millions of people were displaced, and as many as one million died in the chaos and sectarian clashes following Partition.

After three all-out wars, several border skirmishes, and terror attacks, Pakistan and India aren’t any closer to peaceful co-existence; and now, both are armed with nuclear weapons.

Read more: Pakistan readies military, hospitals for war with its nuclear rival India after Pulwama terror attack

In July, President Donald Trump falsely told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to mediate what perhaps the two countries’ most acrimonious dispute – the decades-long battle over the territory of Kashmir, a majority-Muslim territory that was originally ruled by India.

While Pakistan hopes for third-party intervention in the conflict, India will only negotiate bilaterally.

Take a look at one of the world’s hotspots – the border between India and Pakistan.


The border between India and Pakistan is based on the Radcliffe Line, drawn in the weeks before Partition by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who had never been to Asia. His attempts to divide the subcontinent based on religion resulted in sectarian clashes and between 500,000 and a million people were killed.

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The border between India and Pakistan.
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Google Maps / Business Insider

Source: BBC, The Diplomat


India and Pakistan have fought three wars, starting almost immediately after partition. Two of the three wars were fought expressly over Kashmir. When the countries were separated during partition, the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir decided to become part of India, angering Pakistan, which supported several insurgencies.

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An armored car used during the first Indian-Pakistani war.
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Pakistan Ministry of Defense

Many Kashmiris hope for independence, or to be ruled by Pakistan instead of India, according to the BBC.


Residents of border towns must deal with violence between India and Pakistan, While there hasn’t been an all-out war in decades, terror attacks and military engagements are not uncommon.

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Residents of village near the border area at a petrol station after military strikes across the line of control in Amritsar, India, September 29, 2016.
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Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images


The border is often closed due to fighting or to terror incidents. In November 2014, for example, a Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber killed dozens at the Wagah border.

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A Pakistan man on a donkey cart passes Pakistani paramilitary troops a day after a suicide bombing, along a street leading to the Wagah border, November 3, 2014.
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Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images

Source: BBC


The Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, in the Pakistani border state of Punjab, is the second-largest mosque in Pakistan, with a capacity of 100,000 worshipers.

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Girls take a selfie after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore.
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Mosin Raza / REUTERS

Source: Atlas Obscura


Lahore Fort in Lahore’s Walled City is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has Hindu and Mughal motifs in its design and is “a unique and exceptional testimony to the Mughal civilization at the height of its artistic and aesthetic accomplishments, in the 16th and 17th centuries.”

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Pakistani tourists at the Lahore Fort in Lahore on February 13, 2010. The Lahore Fort, locally referred to as Shahi Qila is the citadel of the city of Lahore in Punjab province.
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Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images

The Mughal Empire ruled parts of the Indian subcontinent starting in the early 16th century.

Source: Unesco


India’s Rajasthan, which borders Pakistan, is mostly desert. It’s majority Hindu, with some Muslim, Sikh, and Jain populations.

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A traditional Rajasthani folk dancer performs during the “Desert Festival” in the western Indian city of Jaisalmer, February 15, 2003.
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Pawel Kopczynski / REUTERS

In February, about 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force troops were killed by a car bomb. Jaish-e-Mohammed, an extremist group based in Pakistan and which aims to unite Kashmir and Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. Afterward, The Indian air force conducted an exercise in Pokhran, Rajasthan.

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Indian air force aircraft during the Vayu Shakti-2019 exercise at the firing range in Pokhran, Rajasthan, India, February 16, 2019.
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Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: BBC


An Indian air force base in Pathankot, in the Indian state of Punjab, was attacked in 2016. A coalition of Kashmiri groups, the United Jihad Council, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it opposed Indian rule of Kashmir.

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An Indian security personnel stands guard on a building at the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Pathankot in Punjab, India, January 5, 2016.
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Mukesh Gupta / REUTERS

Source: BBC


The Indian border state of Punjab is the home of the Sikh religion. Sikhism is monotheistic, and it’s the fifth-largest faith in the world. Sikh men wear a turban to cover their hair, which Sikhism dictates they do not cut.

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People carry a coffin containing the remains of Sukhjinder Singh, a Central Reserve Police Force member killed by a suicide bomber in south Kashmir on February 14, before his cremation in Gandiwind village, northern state of Punjab, India, February 16, 2019.
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Munish Sharma / REUTERS

Punjab was divided during Partition; there’s a Pakistani Punjab, but most Sikh live in Indian Punjab.

Source: Religion News Service


Shri Harmandir Sahib, known as the Golden Temple, is located in Amritsar, India, and is the most significant pilgrimage site for Sikhs. Shown here at night, it’s located about 18 miles from the Pakistan border.

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Sikh devotees light candles at the holy Sikh shrine of Golden Temple on the 544th birth anniversary of their first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, in Amritsar, November 17, 2013.
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Munish Sharma / REUTERS

Source: Atlas Obscura


Designated terror groups, like Lakshar-e-Taiba (LeT), operate within Pakistan. LeT was blamed for a terror attack in Mumbai, India, in 2008, which killed 164 people. Hafiz Saeed, who started LeT, was arrested in Pakistan. Groups like LeT advocate the end of Indian influence in Kashmir.

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Hafiz Saeed is showered with flower petals before a Pakistani court ordered his release from house arrest in Lahore.
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Thomson Reuters

Saeed has been arrested and released in Pakistan several times, most recently in July.

Source: CNN, CIA World Factbook


Kashmir is a heavily disputed between India and Pakistan. India, Pakistan, and China all control parts of Kashmir, but India controls the largest portion — 45%.

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Control of Kashmir is divided between India, Pakistan, and China.
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Google Maps / Business Insider

The Line of Control (LoC) divides Indian-controlled Kashmir from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. It was set up in 1948, after India and Pakistan fought their first war over the territories of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Indian Border Security Force soldiers on patrol near the Line of Control in the Sabjiyan sector of Poonch district, August 8, 2013.
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Mukesh Gupta / REUTERS

Source: BBC


The LoC is about 450 miles long and lined with barbed wire.

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Indian Border Security Force soldiers patrol through floodwaters along a border fence on the outskirts of Jammu, September 13, 2014.
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Mukesh Gupta / REUTERS

Source: The Wall Street Journal


A Pakistani flag is visible on a guard tower on the Pakistani side of the border between Indian Kashmir and Pakistani Kashmir.

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A Pakistani tower along the India-Pakistan border in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu, January 12, 2013.
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Mukesh Gupta / REUTERS

Kashmiri Muslims often clash with Indian security forces. Protests and armed clashes occur in response to human-rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and rape, by Indian security forces, Human Rights Watch reports.

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An Indian police officer fires pellets to disperse Kashmiri Muslim demonstrators during a protest after Friday prayers in downtown Srinagar, May 10, 2019.
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Danish Ismail / REUTERS

Source: Human Rights Watch


Much of Kashmir is mountainous, as the Himalaya mountain range stretches into the territory. While Kashmir is majority Muslim, there are also Hindu holy sites there, such as Amaranth cave. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus left Kashmir, or were killed in violent sectarian clashes, in the 1990s.

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Hindu pilgrims trek through mountains to reach the Amarnath cave shrine where they worship an ice stalagmite that Hindus believe to be the symbol of Lord Shiva, at Sangam Top in the Kashmir region, July 6, 2019.
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Mukesh Gupta / REUTERS

Source: BBC


Indian leader Narendra Modi has called for development in Kashmir. Clashes between Kashmiri groups and Indian security forces have increased under Modi, whose BJP Party promotes a Hindu nationalist message.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, December 15 , 2017.
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Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Source: Al Jazeera, CNBC


At a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in July, President Donald Trump falsely claimed that Modi had asked him to mediate the dispute over Kashmir.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, July 22, 2019.
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Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS

India controls a larger portion of Kashmir, so it’s in India’s interest to only negotiate bilaterally with Pakistan, lest Pakistan use third-party leverage to try and gain more territory.


The Wagah-Attari and Munabao border crossings are the only places people can travel by train between India and Pakistan. Both rail services going through Wagah-Attari and Munabao have been suspended at various points in the past decade due to violence — either all-out war or terrorism.

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There are few border crossings between India and Pakistan.
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Google Maps / Business Insider

The “friendship bus” runs between the Indian capital of New Delhi and Lahore, Pakistan every day but Sunday, carrying Indians, Pakistanis, and Kashmiris between India and Pakistan. Established in 1999, it has run through multiple conflicts between the two countries.

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Indian and Pakistani border guards open the gate for the “friendship bus” at the Wagah-Attari border crossing in Pakistan, March 18, 2019.
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Alasdair Pal / REUTERS

Source: Al Jazeera


Wagah-Attari has one of the few border crossings between Pakistan and India.

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Clocks in a restaurant on the Pakistani side of the Wagah-Attari border crossing show the half-hour time difference between India and Pakistan, March 15, 2019.
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Alasdair Pal / REUTERS

Border guards from India and Pakistan perform ceremonies at the border for audiences. A stadium expressly built for spectators of those ceremonies sits on the border.

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Pakistani Rangers carry the national flag during a flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah border area between Pakistan and India in eastern Pakistan’s Lahore, March 30, 2019.
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Aaamir Qureshi / AFP / Getty Images

Pakistani and Indian border guards meet at the boundary between India and Pakistan. During an evening ceremony, the guards symbolically close the gate between India and Pakistan. The entrance to Pakistan can be seen in the background.

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Indian Border Security Force personnel in brown uniforms and Pakistani Rangers in black uniforms perform the Beating Retreat ceremony at the Wagah-Attari border post, January 22, 2019.
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Narinder Nanu / AFP / Getty Images

Pakistan banned alcohol for Muslims in 1979. Here, Pakistani customs officials crush contraband bottles of alcohol at the border in January 2019.

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Pakistani custom officials watch a steamroller smash bottles of alcohol at the Wagah border post between Pakistan and India, January 26, 2019.
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Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images

Source


The Samjhauta Express, or Friendship Express, is one of two railway stations connecting India and Pakistan. It’s one of few options for people to move between both countries, but its service was suspended during violence between the two countries in March.

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Stranded Pakistani passengers leave Attari Railway station after Pakistan’s temporary suspension of the Samjhauta Express rail service, also called the Friendship Express, which runs between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan, February 28, 2019.
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Narinder Nanu / AFP / Getty Images

When British colonial rule ended in 1947, thousands of families were separated by the partition. While they can now travel back and forth, the process is still somewhat onerous; visas to go back and forth are often delayed, and Indian nationals in Pakistan are required to check in with police upon arrival.

Source: Al Jazeera, Government of Pakistan


The gate into Pakistan at the Wagah-Attari border crossing bears the image of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the first leader of independent Pakistan. Jinnah led the fight for a separate nation for Indian Muslims and led Pakistan from its creation until his death from tuberculosis in September 1948.

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Indian Border Security Force personnel at the India-Pakistan border at Wagah on November 3, 2014, after a November 2 suicide bomb attack on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border gate.
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Narinder Nanu / AFP / Getty Images

Source: BBC


The entrance to India features Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi led the push for Indian independence from colonial Britain through peaceful resistance, including a hunger strike and what’s known as the Salt Satyagraha — a 24-day march to the town of Dandi to gather Indian salt in 1930. At the time it was illegal for Indians to buy domestically harvested salt; they had to purchase salt that was processed in and imported from Britain.

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Indian Border Security Force personnel stand guard at the border in Wagah, November 3, 2014, after a suicide bomb attack on the Pakistani side of the border that killed at least 55 people on November 2.
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Narinder Nanu / AFP/ Getty Images

Source: Time


The Wagah Stadium straddles the border between India and Pakistan.

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The Wagah Stadium, as seen via satellite.
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Google Earth / Business Insider

The Wagah-Attari stadium was specially built for spectators of India and Pakistan’s daily border-guard ceremony.

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Indian spectators at the Wagah-Attari border stadium cheer the “friendship bus” as it crosses into Pakistan, March 15, 2019.
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Alasdair Pal / REUTERS

The rail station at Munabao is the other station linking the two countries, although it carries only passengers, not cargo. Munabao is far west of Wagah, in the state of Rajasthan. The Thar Express, the railway between the two countries, was closed for 41 years after the India-Pakistan war in 1965. Its operation is periodically reviewed by India and Pakistan; last year, it was decided it would run into 2021.

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Pakistani train passengers wave their national flags near Munabao train station in India’s desert state of Rajasthan, February 18, 2006.
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Kamal Kishore / REUTERS

Source: Mint