From highlighting tourism to climate change to diplomacy, the royal couple are showcasing their "soft power"
The royal couple have been stepping out for a series of carefully planned engagements on what aides have described as their “most complex” tour to date in an effort to reinvigorate links between Britain and Pakistan in a troubled region. From celebrating local business to putting a spotlight on the climate crisis, the future king and queen are packing in diplomacy and bridge-building befitting their roles:
1. Boosting local tourism. Theirs is the first royal tour to Pakistan since 2006 – underlining the difficulties, because of security, that have existed in the 13 years since. But diplomats and insiders point to the fact that British Airways is flying again to Islamabad and London mayor Sadiq Khan – who is of Pakistani heritage – visited in December 2017. By visiting Chitral and the Kalash village on Wednesday, the couple were able to show some of the wonders of the north of the country and that they are open for business.
2. Diplomatic duo. By referring to his grandmother Queen Elizabeth and dad Prince Charles while standing on the hill above Islamabad, William subtly reminded the 250 guests at a reception at the Pakistan Monument of the longstanding links between the two countries. And following his much-praised trip to Israel and the disputed territories in 2016, he and Kate are showing that on a very basic, human level, their non-political position can have some warming impact in countries that are also at the center of geo-political challenges. Observers noted how animated Kate was as she chatted with First Lady Samina Alvi during their meeting with President Dr. Arif Alvi.
And while meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan might have been viewed as personal — William was a teen when they first met — they were also able to exchange notes on the issues facing Pakistan and the region. The meeting was a showcased a young royal couple meeting the leader of a country with a youthful average age of just 24 among its 210 million population.
3. Sensational style. On Tuesday, Kate stepped out in a traditional shalwar kameez, and later that evening William confidently wore a sherwani. “They are enjoying each and every moment and giving a message to the world that Pakistan is a very peaceful country,” says Naumen Arfeen, who designed the coat-like garment for William. “He knows how to handle it and carry it. That was simply superb.” Veteran observers on the tour note that the style choice pays tribute to local customs in a way that will play well back home in the U.K., where there are 1.5 million people of Pakistani heritage.
4. Highlighting climate change. Many people would not associate Pakistan with having glaciers, but by visiting and showing the devastation of flooding caused by melting ice to millions of people, William and Kate helped spotlight the issue. Local residents, said a translator, “are glad that people are learning more about this. It’s a source of pride. They can’t forget this day.”
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5. Education for all. During a visit Tuesday, Kate praised a local school as a “very positive environment.” As the couple highlighted the work to get more girls into higher education and careers beyond school, they were told of moves being taken to “empower young people and organizations that help ensure they have the best possible start in life,” says their palace spokesman. The Duchess, who has made the early years of childhood the central plank of her public work, wants to absorb as much information as possible about the experiences of children around the world as well as at home and has done similar visits at most of their foreign tours.