Launching a 12-day trek through lands struggling with poverty and overpopulation, Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed hope Saturday that her five-nation tour of South Asia would help all sides understand each other better.
Her mission is twofold: to support efforts to improve the dismal lot of many women and children in these male-dominated societies and to ease strained U.S. relations with a corner of the world that is becoming increasingly important, economically and otherwise.
The first lady and her 15-year-old daughter, Chelsea, arrived in Islamabad just before midnight in a driving rain after an 8,000-mile journey that included a side trip to the pyramids during a Cairo refueling stop.
After Pakistan, Mrs. Clinton is slated to travel to India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, a collection of countries struggling with illiteracy, overpopulation, poverty, poor health care and widespread human rights abuses.
Mrs. Clinton dispensed with formal arrival ceremonies in Islamabad because of the late hour and released a written statement in which she said her two-week visit was “far too brief a time to absorb the full richness and vitality of this region of the world.”
“But I hope my visit will help Americans and South Asians gain a greater appreciation of the opportunities and challenges that join us as a global family,” she said.
She will meet prominent women and visit schools, clinics and businesses working to advance the station of women and children.