Sunday, 30 June 2019

The Cambridges to Undertake Most "Diplomatically Sensitive" Tour to Date in Pakistan

We've been awaiting news of the Cambridges' 2019 tour for months. Initially, speculation suggested a European trip, but more recently talk turned to a tour of Asia. Last night, Kensington Palace confirmed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will in fact undertake an official visit to Pakistan this autumn at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The week-long tour will mark William and Kate's first joint Commonwealth tour in three years and is expected to take place in October. George, Charlotte and Louis will not be accompanying their parents. High Commissioner for Pakistan, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, said: "The Government and the people of Pakistan warmly welcome the announcement of the royal visit by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Pakistan this year. The people of Pakistan still cherish and fondly recall the visits of Her Majesty the Queen to Pakistan in 1961 and 1997. The upcoming royal visit is a reflection of the importance the United Kingdom attaches to its relations with Pakistan. The two countries enjoy historical links which both sides wish to strengthen further."

I thought the announcement a very interesting choice. Firstly, I'm delighted to see a return to Commonwealth visits. Whilst the focus has been on deploying a touch of 'soft diplomacy' and strengthening ties with our European neighbours during Brexit negotiations, it is absolutely vital William and Kate build relationships across the Commonwealth. With Her Majesty, and Prince Charles, we've seen a lifetime of connections forged through these visits. It's not beyond the realm of possibility William could be king and Kate queen consort in a decade's time; they need to be prepared for every eventuality and to utilise these years to the fullest. The Cambridges' previous tours have very much served as an introduction to the Commonwealth, promoted the interests of the UK and the host country, whilst honouring causes close to their hearts. The trip to Pakistan is being seen as a more serious undertaking, with the Telegraph describing it as their most "logistically difficult" and "diplomatically sensitive" tour to date.

More from Hannah Furness:

'The couple, who have not been on tour together for 18 months as the Duchess looked after their third baby Prince Louis, will visit Pakistan in the autumn as they take on a heavyweight role in Britain’s overseas diplomacy. The tour, which the three Cambridge children will not be part of, will see them navigate significant security concerns to celebrate the country’s ties with the UK.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice currently issues heavy warnings against travelling to certain areas of the country, listing recent terror attacks and advising tourists to “avoid religious events or gatherings, public events and large crowds of people throughout Pakistan”. “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Pakistan,” it notes in official travel advice. 
“There’s a high threat of terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout the country, including the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi.” Following the ambush of a bus in 2009, test cricket has not been played in Pakistan for a decade.'

Pakistan's Commonwealth membership has been a fraught one; the country left in 1972 before rejoining in 1989. The Commonwealth of Nations writes:

'Pakistan left in 1972, when other member countries recognised Bangladesh, and returned after the democratic elections of 1989.
However, following the overthrow of the democratically elected government in October 1999, the country was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth pending the restoration of democracy. This suspension was lifted in May 2004, but reimposed in November 2007 after a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in Kampala pending the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. CMAG met again on 12 May 2008 and agreed that the Government of Pakistan had taken positive steps to fulfil its obligations in accordance with Commonwealth fundamental values and principles; it accordingly decided to restore Pakistan to the councils of the Commonwealth.'

Around 1.5 million Pakistani diaspora reside in the UK - an inextricable link between both countries. The Telegraph notes bilateral trade between UK and Pakistan is said to be worth £3 billion. Indeed, earlier this month, The first British Airways plane landed in Islamabad as the airline began its first service between the UK and Pakistan in 10 years. It is the first European airline to return to the country in more than a decade. Last December, both countries signed the Prison Transfer Agreement which will give prisoners the opportunity to serve their sentence closer to home and allows them to prepare for their reintegration into their home community when they are eventually released from prison.

Brexit will play a role in the tour, with the United Kingdom firmly focused on trade negotiations. A joint statement released by the Government and Pakistan read:

'With more than 200 million consumers, Pakistan is an exciting market for British business. To support UK companies exporting to Pakistan and for Pakistani buyers of UK goods and services, the UK export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), support is to more than double to up to £400 million, meaning an additional £200 million to help UK exporters win, fulfill and get paid for export contracts, and Pakistan’s buyers access finance to source high-quality UK goods and services.
Both governments are ambitious, to see more British trade and investment in Pakistan, as well as Pakistani businesses exporting to and operating in the UK. From textiles to pharmaceuticals, engineering and sporting goods, to finance, legal or business services, Pakistan has huge potential in the global economy. We are committed to work with businesses in both countries to strengthen these ties into the future.'

The Times notes:

'William and Kate will go the capital, Islamabad, and are also expected to travel to the cities of Lahore, Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar as well as rural communities across the country on the week-long tour. Sources said the Cambridges’ trip, at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will “celebrate the close friendship and cultural ties between the two countries”.
A government source said: “Pakistan is a very important country in a fragile part of the world. “The royal visit will be an acknowledgment both of the significant Pakistani community living in the UK and the increasing commercial opportunities that are opening up there.” 

Lahore is both visually and historically magnificent. The country's second most populous city is the cultural hub of Pakistan. The centre of the publishing, literary scene and film industry, it's also home to leading universities. UNESCO World Heritage sites Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens could very well feature in the final itinerary.

The last royal tour to the county was in 2006 when Charles and Camilla visited amid heightened security following terrorist attacks. They enjoyed the sights of Lahore and visited the Badshai Mosque. The itinerary was planned to support the partnership between the UK and Pakistan and promote inter-faith education, sustainable development and young people.

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The late Princess Diana visited close friend Jemima Khan and her husband cricketer Imran Khan in Lahore in 1996 and 1997 to help raise funds for a cancer centre built by Khan. Mr Khan is now Prime Minister of Pakistan and it is almost certain he will welcome the Cambridges to the country, likely with an official dinner in their honour.

Her Majesty has a long history with the country. She visited with Prince Philip in 1961 and 1997. The 22 minute video below from their first visit is a snapshot back in time. Beautifully restored, the music and stunning cinematography reminds one of a classic movie from yesteryear. "A country of contrast of plains and rich farmlands. It's a country where tradition is strong, despite the urge for change." It features footage of the momentous welcome the Queen received, a variety of engagements and the Queen's timeless style.

In terms of Kate's style for the tour, the Duchess will be preparing for a warm climate. I imagine we'll see versatile day looks, possibly including the traditional dress of shalwar kameez (Diana is seen below wearing a gorgeous ivory pearl studded shalwar kameez). I expect we'll see a formal dinner and a couple of evening receptions on the itinerary to formally welcome the couple to Pakistan and celebrate ties between the two countries. There's an array of amazingly talented Pakistani designers we'll be looking at closer to the date.

Embed from Getty Images

For security reasons, I don't believe we'll hear much about the tour until much closer to the date. It is thought child development, young people and mental health will feature on the itinerary. The photos should be fantastic, with cultural landmarks and scenic delights set to be on the agenda. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the full itinerary and the tour itself. It promises to be fascinating.

Kate's 'Back To Nature' garden will be displayed at Hampton Court Palace this week. The preview day is tomorrow, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see an unannounced engagement for the Duchess.


  1. In reading this announcement, there appears to be a change in tone for the Cambridges and their commonwealth visits. For the first time, since I've followed Kate, I am looking forward to this visit for the diplomatic success of it primarily, and the fashion secondary. Charlotte, you put into perspective the true importance and significance of this visit for William and Kate. They are following a path that the Queen and Prince Philip started years ago, in a very different time. I have every faith they are up to the challenge and are the best ambassadors for the United Kingdom and for the causes they champion.

  2. Such an interesting place to visit. Important diplomatic relations. Enjoy!

  3. I am looking forward to this tour. It will be a challenge for them. Not the safest place to visit. Both are great Ambassadors for the UK and the Queen. Good Luck to them.

  4. I wonder if this is a once off or if the Cambridges are planning to move away from the epic royal tours that cover several countries and last two to three weeks.
    I won’t be surprised if the latter is the case at least while they have kids (or until the kids go to boarding school, if they go to boarding school).
    There is a lot of arguments to be made for more frequent but shorter tours. Long tours made sense when intercontinental travel was difficult and time consuming.

  5. This sounds like a very challenging visit. I wish the Cambridges much success in planning and executing their mission. I agree with Anonymous 19:10 that the diplomatic success is more important than the fashion. I hope to see Kate in a shalwar kameez!

  6. Wow that is so interesting and unexpected. As a mother of littles myself my heart stops a little at the thought of the Cambridge’s being in danger but I’m sure their staff will take every precaution for their safety. Excited for this tour and a new stage of diplomacy for them!

  7. Charlotte: brilliant job of laying out the challenges the Cambridges will face in this chaotic region. I know they will be preparing very seriously for this assignment. It demonstrates the Queen’s trust in them. Fashion will take a back seat, but I’m sure Kate and her staff will find culturally respectful ways to impress and delight.

  8. Very exciting; I will be following the development of this tour and of this trend in diplomacy very closely. I find it very interesting.

  9. How wonderful, I can’t wait! Good for you Will and Kate!

  10. Susan in Florida30 June 2019 at 23:53

    I wish them the best in such a dangerous place. I’m impressed with the risk they are taking , even with all the security available to them.

  11. This is an unpopular opinion which I am reposting from madaboutmeghan but:'ve always found the long royal tours where royals visit former British colonies where there is a lot of poverty and income inequality to be rather cringeworthy in terms of optics, and I felt the same way about William and Kate's tours, as well as Charles, Diana, and any other member of the BRF.

    This "ooh, these darling foreign colonies with their native cultures showing the royals how they live, how adorable" aspect of royal tours always seems so condescending, as doe the inevitable fawning "roll out the red carpet" treatment the royals get. It harkens to a time in the British empire when colonies were repressed economically and socially.

    I felt the same way when William and Kate did their big tour of India. There was nothing worse than William and Kate touring India (especially the slums of Mumbai) in their designer clothes and playing cricket and soccer in high heels while India still struggles with extreme poverty and income inequality. These tours are always incredibly tone deaf that way.

    This doesn't mean royals shouldn't travel and do good works around the world. I agree that is part of their job. But go ... with a purpose. Don't just go and get feted and honored everywhere. Diana traveled the world to campaign against land mines.

    Again, just my opinion. I'm glad the Cambridges say this tour will be "diplomatically sensitive" but the Marie Antoinette aspect of these tours makes my blood boil, always.

    1. Ivy Lin, much of the foreign tours are done with a purpose. For example, many of their visits in India highlighted specific charities that are working to aid certain problems and issues. The tour invariably increases awareness of these charities in hope of increasing donations. Also, the tours do help promote tourism. When the royals visit landmarks etc, they are basically being international ambassadors for that country. Royal tours create a lot of awareness and interest in specific sites and, therefore, the country itself. The visited country gains a lot actually. One last point, many tours, especially those within the Commonwealth, coincide with historic anniversaries or celebrations. The royals are invited to help promote interest in and visibility of those events.

    2. I understand that. But the history of British colonialism on these countries is very ugly, and its effects are still being felt today. I always hate it when British royals waltz in for their tours as if to say "everything is so great now" when really, everything is not so great and countries are still struggling with the repercussions of the economic, social, and military oppression that occurred during British colonialism. It would be one thing if they toured a Commonwealth country that was doing fine economically. But tours to S. Africa for Harry and Meghan and Pakistan for William and Kate? No matter how "sensitive" they are they're going to look like Marie Antoinette parading the streets in silk fineries and red bottom shoes while the French citizens starved. Maybe the worst example was when Charles went to Nigeria and spoke pidgin English. That was awful and tone-deaf.

      If you want to travel to these places ... travel ... with a specific purpose. A good example is Sophie's recent visit to Lebanon where she went to refugee camps and met with officials about how to improve education and living conditions. No pomp, no fanfare, no designer dresses, just an intense work-related trip.

    3. With the Sussexes coming to my country I have been thinking about the point of royal tours a lot.
      I think you can divide royal tours in three categories, those to countries of the realms, like Aus, NZ & Canada. These tours are like away-days on steriods. They are after all part of the royal family of these countries.
      Then you get the royal-to-royal visit where they are guests of the local royal family.
      The third type of tour is to the rest of the world. And it is these tours that, like you, give me pause. The India tour is a perfect example. It felt like India wasn’t sure what they should do with the Cambridges. They were not there on invitation of the local government, like a state visit, nor had they an official purpose. Basically they are a couple of celebrities attending a bunch of events the foreign office and the local consulate arranged.
      I have heard it being said that it is important that they build relationships with the people of these countries. But why does the people of Pakistan or South Africa or India need to have a relationship with members of the British Royal family?
      Tours are definitely great for tourism, but why should the British taxpayer cough up thousands to support tourism in Pakistan or South Africa?
      I don’t have the answers to these questions, all I know is that hardly any other country send people without an official purpose on such high profile visits.

      (Don’t get me wrong, as a royal watcher I love these tours)

    4. One instance of the awkwardness of the Cambridges' tour to India was when they took pains to recreate the exact pose of Diana at the Taj Mahal. They said they wanted to "create new memories" while honoring Diana. Which is all lovely and fine and good ... for a personal vacation. It's 100% healthy for William to want to experience some of the things his mother experienced, and to try to understand her more by going to the places she went to and what not. But to do so in the guise of a royal tour?

      Just the fact that they had to put out a disclaimer saying this will be a "diplomatically sensitive" tour to me shows that they know how awkward the optics of these tours are. Again, if they are visiting economically robust Commonwealth countries that's fine and good. If they are going on invitation by foreign governments ... good. But sometimes I feel like these tours are just paid vacations.

    5. Ivy, believe me. None of these can be looked upon as a paid vacation unless that means to you being followed and photographed 24/7 doing really boring things. I would venture to say that royal tours are exhausting and stressful, and that the royals must need a real vacation at the end of one.

      Also, I believe the royals are asked to visit by the country, so they don't just show up and demand to do all sorts of things putting everyone out. Therefore, the government of these foreign countires do actually want the royals to show up and do their thing.

      Regarding, the Taj Mahal pose. I'm sure it meant sonething to William on a personal level but no way was that all it was. That was royal PR at it's finest. To royal watchers of a certain age, that photo meant a lot. Anon15:54

  12. Wow. Excited for the tour. But also so scary. Sorry the kids won't go. But obviously totally understand.

  13. Those two dresses are so gorgeous and the outfit Diana is wearing is stunning. I'd like to see Kate wear something similar on their trip to Pakistan. Thanks for the informative post.

  14. Such an intersting country they are going but its dangerous and for them for security reason im thinking thr staff will take care and do precations to be safe the tour was the queen really trust them

  15. I am excited to follow them on a tour but I am also quite concerned for their safety. Very concerned.

  16. I really enjoyed the history lesson, Charlotte. Thank you. I’m looking forward to the tour.

  17. so excited for this tour i love that short blue and white dress hope she wears it during the tour!


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