Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive in Pakistan for five-day visit

Ben Farmer
The royal couple touched down at Nur Khan Airbase, close to Islamabad - Adam Vallance / Kensington Palace

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have arrived in Pakistan amid extensive security for a five-day visit the two counties hope will showcase the South Asian nation and strengthen ties with Britain.

More than 1,000 Pakistani police officers are being deployed to watch over the royal couple as they criss-cross the second most populous country in the Commonwealth.

The pair touched down at the Nur Khan airbase, close to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, soon after 9.30pm local time (5.30 UK time) onboard a RAF Voyager plane from Brize Norton. The couple were met by the country's foreign minister, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi.

Details of the visit have been kept under tight secrecy, but the pair will meet the prime minister, former cricketer Imran Khan, and visit Lahore, as well as the north and west of the country.

Their visit has been billed as the most complex undertaken by the pair and comes 12 years since the last visit by the Royal family, when the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall met survivors of the Kashmir earthquake.

Credit:  Chris Jackson

Both the Queen and Princess Diana visited the country in the Nineties, before the country sank into a spiral of militant violence and became out of bounds for many foreign visitors.

Pakistan hopes to use the visit to show off its improved security after military operations pushed much of its domestic Taliban militancy over the border into Afghanistan.

Violence in the country has fallen sharply since earlier in the decade and Pakistan hopes a successful visit can showcase its potential as a tourist destination.

 

Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner, said in advance of the trip that the visit would show the country of more than 210m as “dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking”.

Pakistan hosts one of Britain's biggest diplomatic missions and receives more UK aid than any other country, much of it spent on education.

William and Kate are expected to meet leaders from government and well-known cultural figures and sporting stars, as well as visiting programmes which empower young people.

They will also cover how communities in Pakistan are responding and adapting to climate change, and are due to spend time understanding the "complex security picture" of the region.

The tour, which wraps up on Friday, aims to strengthen ties between the two countries and a time when, with Brexit looming, Britain is also keen to bolster its international relationships.

The Duke and Duchess arrive as tensions between Pakistan and India are again strained over Kashmir. The nuclear-armed neighbours almost came to war earlier in the year after Delhi blamed Pakistan for a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 paramilitary police in the Indian Administered Kashmir. Their stand-off flared again in August when Delhi revoked Kashmir's special autonomous status.

Both nations claim the Himalayan former princely state, but it is divided between them by a contested and heavily militarised frontier. Pakistan has tried to marshal international opinion against  India's move, but British diplomats are likely to try to avoid the issue during the visit.