ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in Pakistan’s capital on Monday, beginning a five-day visit that will focus on boosting ties and addressing challenges such as climate change.
The couple disembarked from a British Royal Air Force plane, after an eight-hour flight, at about 9.30 p.m. (1630 GMT) at Nur Khan Airforce base in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad.
They were greeted by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Thomas Drew, the British High Commissioner, as well as two children who gave them bouquets of flowers.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore a long pale blue variation of the shalwar kameez, a dress or tunic worn over trousers, Pakistan’s traditional national outfit that many on social media and in the fashion industry had hoped she would don during her visit. Prince William wore a navy suit with a blue tie.
The trip has been described by Kensington Palace as the most complex the couple have undertaken due to security and logistical issues. It is the first by members of the British royal family in more than a decade.
The release of public details of the tour were limited due to tight security, but the visit would take them around the north and west of the nation of 208 million people, with the focus on climate change, access to education and security.
“The couple would like to see the breadth and depth of the country from the leafy capital here in Islamabad to the vibrant city of Lahore, the mountainous countryside of the north and the rugged border regions of the west,” the British High Commissioner said in a video on his official Twitter account.
“They’re looking forward to building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan. I know they will get a very warm welcome,” he added.
Excitement built up on Monday, with ‘#RoyalVisitPakistan’ trending on Twitter and television stations airing footage from historic royal visits, including one by Prince William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth in 1961.
Some rickshaw drivers in Lahore and Rawalpindi, a garrison city next to Islamabad, painted their vehicles with the Pakistani and British flags.
Foreign policy experts and officials have said the trip, made at the request of the British foreign office, represented a soft power push, which may help both sides further their diplomatic aims.
It comes as Britain seeks to reinvigorate its foreign relationships with the looming deadline for Britain’s departure from the European Union, while Pakistan works to repair its global image to boost tourism and investment.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Asif Shahzad in ISLAMABAD; Editing by Edmund Blair)