LONDON: The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will visit Pakistan later this year to promote trade and cultural links. Officials say he will be visiting Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi as well as three Indian cities, Mumbai, New Delhi and Amritsar.

When he was elected mayor of London last year, Sadiq Khan became the most powerful British-Pakistani politician in the United Kingdom. For many months now he has been seeking to counter the perception that, since the Brexit referendum, the UK is becoming increasingly hostile to foreigners. The mayor, who is leading a “London is Open” campaign, insists that despite the EU referendum vote, the UK capital continues to welcome people from across the world to work, study or visit.

Mr Khan’s grandparents were born in India and his parents moved to London from Pakistan. He has relatives in Karachi, but asked whether he would be visiting them during the visit, officials said the itinerary had not yet been finalised. He is expected to talk to senior politicians, business leaders, artists, investors and entrepreneurs.

His India trip will include meetings with leading figures from Bollywood as well as representatives from the tech, education and sports sectors.

“This is a really important mission as there are so many areas in which London can work with its counterparts across India and Pakistan,” said Mr Khan when the six-city trip was announced. “I am passionate about showing that my city will always be open to engaging with partners from around the world, and I look forward to strengthening the bonds between London and our friends in India and Pakistan later this year.”

Officials in the mayor’s office say that bilateral trade between the UK and Pakistan stood at £2bn, and in 2015 five Pakistani companies were listed on the London Stock Exchange with a combined market value of £10.5bn. More than 100 British companies are doing business in Pakistan, including include Shell, Reckitt Benckiser, Bestway, AON, Standard Chartered, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever.

Mr Khan will also be accompanied by a group of senior business executives from the capital who are looking for trade deals or investment opportunities. The UK is the fourth largest source of foreign investment in Pakistan and Pakistan’s third largest export market.

Indian companies invest more in the UK than they do in the rest of Europe combined, and employ around 110,000 people. Students from India contribute £130m per annum to the London economy.

According to a research report published in February, the UK remains the single largest G20 investor in India and supports close to 800,000 jobs in the country.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2017