British royal couple arrives on five-day trip

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ISLAMABAD: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton receive bouquets from children at Nur Khan Airbase on Monday.—AP
ISLAMABAD: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton receive bouquets from children at Nur Khan Airbase on Monday.—AP

ISLAMABAD: Britain’s Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton arrived here on Monday night on a five-day trip aimed at strengthening relations between the two countries.

The royal couple was received at Nur Khan Airbase by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Two children in beautiful traditional dress presented bouquets of flowers to the royal couple. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exchanged pleasantries with the children.

It is the couple’s first trip to Pakistan. It is also the first royal visit to the country in 13 years. They are visiting Pakistan at the request of Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The royal couple will during its stay in Pakistan meet President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. They will also meet a number of leading Pakistani personalities at a reception on Tuesday. The couple will attend public events on youth empowerment and climate change.

British High Commis­sioner Thomas Drew, in a video posted on Twitter, said the royal couple was looking forward to meeting as many Pakistanis as possible and building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan.

“Whilst The Duke and Duchess’s programme will pay respect to the historical relationship between Britain and Pakistan, it will largely focus on showcasing Pakistan as it is today — a dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking nation,” he said.

The couple, Mr Drew said, would have a “very exciting programme”.

Besides Islamabad, Prince William and Kate would also visit Lahore, the northern areas and the western border regions.

Kensington Palace had, while announcing the trip, described it as the “most complex tour” undertaken by the royal couple due to logistical and security considerations. A large contingent of security forces would guard the couple during the trip. The security arrangements are being overseen by the Army.

The visit is taking place as the Pakistan government is striving to improve the country’s image and repair the economy.

It is believed that the royal visit would help in projecting a positive image of the country. The trip would serve to reassure those intending to visit Pakistan that the country is safe and secure after suffering from terrorism for several years.

The last royal visit took place in 2006 when Prince of Wales Charles and Duchess of Cornwell Camilla visited the country.

Prince William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, came to Pakistan in 1996 to attend a fundraising event for Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital. Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, visited Pakistan in 1961 and 1997.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019