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US$90 Billion Industry Corridor on Track

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May 14 – India's US$90 billion industrial corridor is project is going according to schedule despite rising prices of steel and cement Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar told Reuters.

The project spanning New Delhi and Mumbai is being built with Japanese help on the lines of the Tokyo-Osaka industrial corridor.

It includes high speed rail freight lines, power plants to supply an additional 4,000 megawatt, three new sea ports and six airports, 12 new industrial clusters, 10 logistic parks and agricultural hubs.

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Renault-Nissan and India’s Bajaj Auto Anounce India’s Second Inexpensive Car

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May 13 – Close on the heels of the Tata's US$2,500 Nano announcement, Nissan Motor Co. of Japan and its French partner Renault SA will form a joint venture with Indian motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto Ltd. to produce a minicar in India that will cost as little as $2,500 reported the Wall Street Journal.

The budget car, which would cost 100,000 rupees in India, is so far only known as "Codename ULC." The joint venture would be 50 percent owned by Bajaj Auto, 25 percent by Renault and 25 percent by Nissan, a statement said.

The ULC will be produced at a factory to be built at Chakan, Maharashtra, in western India. It will eventually produce 400,000 units a year, the two groups said. Mr. Ravikumar, Bajaj Auto's vice president in charge of business development said the car will be exported using the global sales network of Nissan and Renault.

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India’s Retail Industry Currently Worth US$295 Billion

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May 12 – India’s retail industry, both organised and unorganised, is worth $295 billion at present, according to accounting firm Deloitte Haskins and Sells. Breaking up annual sales figures Deloitte says that organised retail grew at a scorching pace in 2007, going to 8 per cent of total retail sales from 5 per cent in 2006, reported the Hindustan Times.

New stores, more spending power and access to credit had led to organised retail’s 50 per cent growth in 2007, said Shyamak Tata, partner at Deloitte who did the research.

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India’s Top Mergers and Acquisitions of 2008

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May 9 – India's top mobile operator Bharti Airtel Ltd is in exploratory talks to acquire 51 percent in South Africa's MTN Group at a value of around US$19 billion, creating the world’s sixth-largest mobile company with 130 million subscribers across 21 countries.

If the deal does go though, it would make it India's biggest foreign deal.

Reuters reported Tata Steel Ltd. last year engineered India's biggest takeover to date, a US$13 billion purchase of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group Plc, which was more than double the size of the next biggest deal, Hindalco Industries purchase of Canada's Novelis.

Indian firms have announced deals worth $6.8 billion so far in 2008, down 39 percent from the same period last year.

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India to Test Missile Agni-III Today

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May 7 – India is all set to test its most ambitious missile Agni-III on Wednesday on Wheeler Island off the coast of Orissa in Eastern India.

The missile has a strike range of 3,500-km, is 16.7-metres tall, with a lift-off weight of 48 tons and a warhead of 1.5 tons.

The Agni-III launch on Wednesday becomes important since it is the third time that the rail-mobile missile will be tested.

Agni-III, which has a velocity of 5,000 meters per second, is a totally new system from the 700-km-range Agni-I (12-ton) and 2,500-km-range Agni-II (17-ton) missiles inducted by the armed forces.

Technicalities apart, India needs an operational Agni-III missile as soon as possible since China already has a wide array of missiles, ranging from the fully-operational 8,500-km CSS-4 to the new 11,270-km DF-31A inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

China, as reported by the Times of India earlier, is also the only country in Asia to have SLBMs like JL-1 and the almost-ready JL-2, with a strike range in the region of 8,000 km. "Chinese missiles can target any major city in India. What we need is credible minimum deterrence against any Chinese misadventure. Agni-III will be a concrete step towards it," an official told the Times of India.

Union Cabinet Approves Women’s Reservation Bill

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May 6 – Late last evening, India's Union Cabinet cleared the contentious Women’s Reservation Bill in its original form for introduction in the Rajya Sabha (council for states). The women’s bill seeks to reserve one third seats for women in the Lok Sabha (people's council) and the state assemblies and is one of the last major commitments of the Congress-led UPA’s common minimum program, reported the Hindustan Times. Once introduced, the constitutional amendment bill would be routed to the standing committee to help hammer out a consensus on it.

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The Cappuccino that Is India

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May 4 – An Indian investment banker recently likened India to a cappuccino, aptly summerizing the workings of the south asian country. “There's coffee at the bottom and lots of froth at the top,'' he says. “It can take a while to get to the coffee. People want more coffee and less froth.'' Dilip Parameswaran, head of Asia credit research at Calyon, Credit Agricole SA's investment-banking unit, told Bloomberg. Parameswaran's analygy of the coffee as actual growth and the foam as the bureaucracy is apt to summerise India's growth, wherein its might take an especially long time to get to the bottom of things.

In a well written article on India, the pace of development and reasons for its slower growth as compared with China Bloomberg contemplates and contrasts, the advantages and disadvantage of the hare and tortoise and finds that the tortoise might just win this race too.

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