Articles - December 2019

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Government Mission

“THE MOST COMPLEX TOUR UNDERTAKEN” The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are back home in the UK following their Pakistan visit, described by Buckingham Palace as “the most complex tour undertaken” by the royal couple, “given the logistical and security considerations.”

Over 1,000 police provided protection on the tour that included stays in the capital Islamabad, Lahore, and the mountainous countryside in the north. But Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and his wife Kate (without their three children) charmed their way through the jam-packed week, with the duchess especially showing once again that she is incapable of putting a foot wrong.

Pakistan is a part of a shared history for Great Britain, and the palace stressed that the royal couple were on a mission for the British government, to remind the Pakistanis of that fact. Today, there are about 1.2 million people of Pakistani origin, and actual Pakistani nationals, living in the United Kingdom, including the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is British-born of Pakistani immigrant parents.

Prince William did what he was sent to do and said in his main speech in Islamabad, “The United Kingdom and Pakistan share unique bonds,” he declared.  “You can always rely on the UK to keep playing an important role as a key partner and friend.”

Besides delivering the government’s message, the royal couple also managed to raise a few concerns of their own, notably climate change. In the same speech Prince William warned that Pakistan’s glaciers were under threat from global warming, putting at risk the water supply of a quarter of a billion people, and called for a universal effort to reverse the course of climate change.

There was also continuity in the context of the long sequence of royal visits to Pakistan starting with Prince William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II (1961 and again in 1997). The prince’s late mother, Princess Diana, had been there in 1991, 1996, and 1997; and 14 years ago, in 2006, his father Prince Charles with the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles had traveled to areas devastated by the 2005 earthquake.

The Duchess’s finely tuned fashion sense was very much in evidence. Much of what she wore was created by Pakistani designers, in keeping with the palace’s statement that the visit would “largely focus on showcasing Pakistan as it is today – a dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking nation.”

Laaleen Sukhera, a Pakistani fashion writer, was quoted as saying that Catherine’s choice of outfits reflected what “a contemporary, urbane Pakistani woman” would wear – “classic, rather than trendy.” The Duchess’s emphasis on green and white, as when the couple met with Prime Minister Imran Khan, was a reference to the colors of the Pakistani flag. For the couple’s visit to the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Catherine wore a green shalwar kameez and a matching scarf.

At the Islamabad Model School for Girls, she wore a cobalt kurta with matching trousers, which recalled a similar blue tunic worn by her mother-in-law Princess Diana on a similar Pakistan visit. Even Prince William got in on the act: he wore a black sherwani (long coat) to a reception at the Pakistani National Monument in Islamabad. The royal couple arrived at the event in a Tuk-Tik or rickshaw.

If there was a broader political dimension to the visit it was probably as a counterweight to the Trump administrations courtship of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The U.S. would like to bolster Pakistan’s rival and neighbor India as its ally on the subcontinent, and a growing competitor to China. In that framework, Prince William’s visit was perhaps a reminder that Pakistan is not without friends.

FREE Digital Edition
See and read Diplomatic Connections Magazine
View Archived Digital Editions