London: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to make the Royal family’s first visit to Pakistan in 13 years, following in the footsteps of Prince William’s parents and grandparents.
The couple, who have not toured together for 18 months since Prince Louis was born, will visit Pakistan in the autumn as they take on a major role in Britain’s overseas diplomacy.
Travelling without their three children, they will navigate significant security concerns to celebrate the country’s ties with the UK.
It will be the most logistically difficult tour the Duchess has undertaken during her time in the Royal family, and follows the Duke’s diplomatically-sensitive trip to Israel and the Occupied Territories last year.
They follow the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, who visited the country in 2006 for a tour partially disrupted by security threats, while Diana, Princess of Wales, made trips to the country with Imran and Jemima Khan following her divorce.
While the tour will see the couple undertake familiar engagements, likely to revolve around their key themes of child development, the environment and mental health, it will also involve more challenging diplomacy.
It is intended as a “big moment” in UK-Pakistan relations, sources said, and is intended in part to honour Britain’s large Pakistani diaspora.
Details of the tour will be kept secret until the autumn, for security reasons.
The pattern set by the Duke’s Middle East trip has been interpreted as a reflection of the increasingly serious duties he is taking on.
A spokesman for Kensington Palace said: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will undertake an official visit to Pakistan at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.” Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are not expected to join their parents on the trip, with the two elder children being at school.
It will take place amid ongoing Brexit negotiations in which trade deals will be of central concern as the UK works to an October 31 deadline.
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.
Following the ambush of a bus in 2009, test cricket has not been played in Pakistan for a decade.
In 2018, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, visited the country, and foreign minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon made a two-day trip earlier this year.
Two semi-private visits by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1996 and 1997 saw her attend fundraising events for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. She was photographed wearing a salwar kameez and headscarf.
Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, High Commissioner for Pakistan, said: “The government and the people of Pakistan warmly welcome the announcement of the royal visit... a reflection of the importance the United Kingdom attaches to its relations with Pakistan.”
Around 1.5 million people of Pakistani heritage currently live in the UK, according to the Government, with UK-Pakistan bilateral trade calculated in 2017 as worth pounds 2.9 billion.