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British Royal Couple Begins Landmark Pakistan Visit


Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrive in Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 14, 2019.

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in Pakistan Monday on their first official visit to the country that will "pay respect to the historical relationship" between the two nations.

They are the first royals to visit Pakistan since 2006, when Charles and Camilla, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, toured the country.

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, were accorded a red carpet welcome when they land at the the Nur Khan Air Force Base near the capital, Islamabad, under tight security arrangements.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other senior Pakistani officials received the royal guests.

"They are looking forward to building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan," British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew said in a video message on the eve of the five-day trip.

The British royals will meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and senior civilian as well as military leaders before traveling to the historical eastern city of Lahore, the mountainous countryside in the north and the rugged border regions to the west.

But the visit, Drew noted, will largely focus on showcasing Pakistan "as it is today — a dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking nation."

The royals will visit programs in Pakistan empowering young people and learn how communities are adapting to climate change, he said.

William's late mother Diana, Princess of Wales, visited Pakistan in 1991 on her first solo tour before returning to the country in 1996 to attend a fundraising event for a cancer hospital Khan built in Lahore after ending his successful career as the captain of the Pakistani cricket team.

Diana also visited Pakistan in 1997 to spend time with her friend Jemima Goldsmith, who was then married to sports-man-turned politician Khan who became prime minister of Pakistan last year.

"This is the most complex tour undertaken by the Duke and Duchess to date, given the logistical and security considerations," said the couple's communication secretary Christian Jones while announcing details of the tour starting Monday.

Pakistan's counterterrorism operations as part of a U.S.-led coalition and retaliatory militant attacks over the past decade has led to deterioration in security conditions in the country. But officials say the threat has subsided due to a sustained nationwide counter militancy campaign.

The improvement in security conditions prompted British Airways to resume direct flights to Islamabad this past June, more than a decade after halting the service due to security concerns stemming from terrorist attacks at the time, including a deadly bombing in Islamabad.