Panetta: US to boost military ties with ASEAN

Updated 17 November 2012
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Panetta: US to boost military ties with ASEAN

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sought yesterday to promote Washington’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific and a tentative rapprochement with Myanmar as he met counterparts in the region.
The US tilt to Asia reflects a concerted effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to assert American influence in the face of China’s growing economic and military might.
“The message I have conveyed on this visit is that the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is real, it is sustainable, and it will be ongoing for a long period of time,” Panetta said.
The US is deepening its military engagement with allies in the region, he told reporters after talks with counterparts from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — including Myanmar — in Cambodia.
He said the Pentagon would increase the size and number of its defense exercises with its Southeast Asian partners.
Fresh from re-election victory, Obama will arrive in the region next week for a historic visit to Myanmar before joining his top diplomat Hillary Clinton in Cambodia for an Asia-Pacific summit.
Obama will be the first sitting US president ever to go to Myanmar, also known as Burma, following a series of dramatic political changes in the former pariah state, which is emerging from decades of military rule.
Pentagon officials are considering reviving military ties with Myanmar to cooperate on non-lethal programs focused on medicine, education and disaster relief exercises.
The activities would be “limited in scope” at the outset, said a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’ll grow as appropriate over time. We need to see reform. We need to see continued progress,” the official said.
Myanmar is also expected to be invited to observe Cobra Gold, the largest US multilateral exercise in the Asia-Pacific. It brings together thousands of troops from the US, Thailand and other countries for field training.


India orders all Mother Teresa care homes inspected

Updated 56 min 51 sec ago
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India orders all Mother Teresa care homes inspected

  • Illegal adoption is big business in India, with over 100,000 children reported missing every year, the government says
  • A nun and a worker at one of the Missionaries of Charity order’s homes were arrested over allegations that at least five infants were sold for potentially thousands of dollars

NEW DELHI: India has ordered an immediate inspection of all childcare homes run by a religious order founded by Mother Teresa after a nun was arrested over an alleged adoption racket.
Illegal adoption is big business in India, with over 100,000 children reported missing every year, the government says. Many are given up by desperately poor parents but others are snatched from hospitals and train stations.
Police earlier this month arrested the nun and a worker at one of the Missionaries of Charity order’s homes in Ranchi, the capital of eastern Jharkhand state, over allegations that at least five infants were sold for potentially thousands of dollars.
The scandal blew up after local child welfare authorities informed police about a newborn missing from the home, which is meant to care for unwed pregnant women and mothers in distress.
In a statement late Monday, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said all state governments have been asked “to get child care homes run by Missionaries of Charity all over the country inspected immediately.”
She also said all childcare institutions should be registered and linked to the central adoption authority within the next month.
In December India’s Supreme Court had ordered mandatory registration of all childcare institutions and bringing orphanages under the central adoption system.
Since then some 2,300 childcare institutions have been linked to the Central Adoption Resource Authority and about 4,000 are still pending, according to the government.
In the aftermath of the adoption scandal, the Missionaries of Charity had said it would carefully look into the Jharkhand case and ensure the incident was never repeated.
The charity was founded in 1946 by Mother Teresa, a global symbol of compassion who was canonized as a saint after her death in 1997.
Headquartered in Kolkata in eastern India, the charity runs several institutions across the country.
Missionaries of Charity was previously involved in providing legal adoption services in India, but in 2015 said it was closing down its adoption centers, citing new regulations that made it easier for single and divorced people to adopt children.