Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate visit Pakistan next week in what Kensington Palace has described as the most complex tour undertaken by the couple, given the security and logistical issues.
The five-day visit comes as Britain seeks to reinvigorate its foreign relationships with Brexit looming, while Pakistan works to repair its global image to boost tourism and investment.
It will be the first visit to Pakistan by members of the British royal family in more than a decade, after royal heir Prince Charles and his wife Camilla in 2006.
William and Kate arrive on Monday on a trip that will include the mountainous north, the capital Islamabad and the city of Lahore, with a focus on climate change, access to education and security.
“This is the most complex tour undertaken by the duke and duchess to date, given the logistical and security considerations,” their communications secretary said.
The visit, at the request of the British foreign office, represents a soft power push, foreign policy experts and officials say, which may help both sides further their diplomatic aims.
“The timing of the upcoming royal visit is important for both Pakistan and the United Kingdom,” said Khalid Jarral, a member of the Asia Research Institute specializing in economic diplomacy at the University of Nottingham, adding that the UK is re-adjusting its global relationships and seeking fresh trade opportunities as it cuts ties with the European Union.
Yasmin Qureshi, a British member of Parliament and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, said: “This visit will have particular significance to over a million British Pakistanis who are a bridge between the two countries working together to foster new relationships and strengthen old ties.”
Pakistan has been trying to shed its reputation for security problems to develop its economy and boost its reputation on the international stage, as it attempts to highlight the struggles of the disputed state of Kashmir, where India revoked the autonomy of its portion in August.
The visit also comes as Pakistan is trying to avoid being placed on a ‘blacklist’ of nations failing to take action on terror financing and money laundering by the Financial Action Task Force, which is meeting next week.
“This is a goodwill visit, and they want to promote good relations between Pakistan, England and our new generation,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said lately on Friday.
Particularly important, officials and members of the tourism industry say, is the chance for Pakistan to revive international tourism, once heavily dependent on British visitors but almost wiped out after the 9/11 attacks and a series of suicide attacks.
“This visit is definitely going to help Pakistan build an image in the world, to see that this place is no more a security risk, this place is peaceful enough to host dignities like the royal couple,” government spokesman Iftikhar Durrani said, adding that the government would also highlight its stance on Kashmir during the visit.
There are already signs of royal influence providing a boost for Pakistan. At an event in London last week, the Duchess of Cambridge wore a pair of $8 earrings by Pakistani brand Zeen, causing them to sell out minutes later.
Many in Pakistan are hoping to see the Kate favour Pakistani designers during her visit and wear the shalwar kameez – a long, flowing tunic over loose trousers – which William’s mother Princess Diana wore during visits in the 1990s.
“The Duchess of Cambridge is a global fashion icon and trend setter,” said Yusra Askari, spokesperson for industry body Fashion Pakistan. “(It’s) time for Pakistani designers and the country’s fashion industry to brace for the ‘Kate Effect’.”