Summit chance to test Paul Henry fallout

By Adam Bennett

Prime Minister John Key will "take India's temperature" and test for any lasting fallout from broadcaster Paul Henry's racially charged comments when he meets Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the East Asia Summit at the weekend.

Along with Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Mr Key leaves today for the summit in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, on Saturday.

While he has no formal meeting scheduled with Mr Singh, Mr Key expects to have a discussion with him.

The meeting "will be an opportunity to take the temperature both on the [proposed] free trade agreement, to take up his offer of a visit to India - which I'm planning to do next year with a high-level business delegation - and I guess just to test whether there's been any fallout from the Paul Henry affair," Mr Key said this week.

Henry has apologised and resigned from Television NZ since his on-air racial slurs against Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, a New Zealand-born and raised ethnic Indian, and New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

It is understood the biggest number of hits on TVNZ's online video clip of the Dikshit incident came from India and that country's High Commissioner, Retired Admiral Sureesh Mehta, has said New Zealand's reputation had been damaged in the eyes of ordinary Indians.

The affair has come as the two countries are negotiating a free trade agreement and along with similar discussions New Zealand is having with Korea and Japan.

"They're not easy nuts to crack," Mr Key said.

He hopes a larger multilateral agreement - the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia - involving those larger Asian economies as well as the Southeast Asian economies, Australia and New Zealand can be advanced at this weekend's summit.

The fifth annual East Asia Summit sees it emerging as a key forum for the leaders of the world's most powerful nations to discuss trade, political and security issues.

While it is based on a core of 10 Southeast Asian nations, it has always included a handful of nations outside the region but relevant to it in a political and economic sense, including China, India and Japan.

Next year's summit is likely to include the United States and Russia, which have been officially invited to join.

In preparation for the presence next year of US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are attending this weekend's summit in what Mr Key said was "a sign of the growing relevance and significance of Asia".

"For the first time, the major East Asian countries have a political influence which is commensurate with their economic power."

- NZ Herald

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