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Australia's PM to visit India ahead of regional summit
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is to visit India later this year as part of a drive to deepen regional relations before December's inaugural East Asia summit in Malaysia, a report said.
The Australian newspaper said Thursday an Australian-Indian ministerial meeting would be held in Canberra next month before Howard's visit to India in July or August.
A spokeswoman in his office was unable to confirm the report.
The newspaper said Howard, who visited China and Japan last week to discuss trade, regional security and the proposed summit, is also considering trips to the United States and Britain in late July.
The Malaysia summit will bring together members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its "Plus 3" partners China, Japan and South Korea in a grouping that is seen as a potential precursor to a European Union-style East Asian Community.
Australia is keen to become a member to expand its regional influence but is hampered by its reluctance to sign ASEAN's non-aggression pact.
Howard says the treaty is a holdover from the Cold War and could clash with Australian-US security agreements.
He has however left open the possibility of a negotiated compromise with ASEAN, which has made the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation a precondition for attendance at the summit.