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April 1, 2007

India test-fires air-to-air missile Astra

India on March 26 test-fired for the second time in two days its indigenously developed air-to-air missile Astra, considered a new system in the guided missile development programme, from a defence base in the eastern coastal state of Orissa.

Officials said the Astra, meaning "weapon" in Hindi, was tested from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in the coastal district of Balasore, about 230 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, little after 10 a.m.

Scientists had tested the missile, which has a striking range of 80 km, from the same range on March 25 as well.

The Astra has been developed by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and is likely to be ready for deployment by 2011-2012.

The latest test-firings of the sleek missile were aimed at providing the Indian Air Force (IAF) with a beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile to equip the Mirage 2000, MiG-29, Su-30 MKI and the Light Combat Aircraft, officials said.

India had earlier planned to test the Dhanush, a naval version of the Prithvi surface-to-surface missile, from a warship in the Bay of Bengal off the Orissa coast on Sunday. But the test was postponed.

Developed by the DRDO laboratory in Hyderabad, Astra is an advanced long-range missile with a solid propellant engine and advanced guidance equipment. It is capable of achieving speeds of around Mach 4. The launch speed was estimated to be 0.6 to 2.2 Mach, officials said.

Earlier, the Astra was tested from the IT thrice within a span of four days between May 9 and 12, 2003.

The missile, with a length of 3,570 mm and a diameter of 178 mm, has a launch weight of 154 kg. It is capable of carrying a 15kg pre-fragmented, high explosive directional warhead.

PM urges South Asian nations to work together for prosperity

As India reaches out to its neighbours, it also wants them to prosper and feel secure since their prosperity guarantees the welfare of its 1.17 billion people, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi on March 23.

"We must make better use of the opportunities the world offers us. We must be more open to our own neighbourhood," the Prime Minister said in an address entitled 'Challenges for the Brave New World: Can India Take the Lead?'

"I want India to be more open to all our neighbours. I want our neighbours to feel secure and confident that in India they have a well-wisher. We see their prosperity as a guarantee of ours," he said. "We see their progress as reinforcing ours. And so must they. The destiny of the people of South Asia is interlinked and interdependent. Our region must and can move forward through such a cooperative engagement."

The Prime Minister's remarks came at the annual conclave of the India Today Group, just a fortnight ahead of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit scheduled here later this month.

According to Manmohan Singh, India was one of the frontrunners in showing the world the way forward in dealing with one of the biggest challenges facing mankind in the modern world.

"This is the challenge of preventing the so-called 'clash of civilisations' and enabling not just a dialogue between civilisations but creating a confluence of civilisations," the Prime Minister said.

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SEZ policy is here to stay, says PM

Making it clear that the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy has come to stay in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 23 said that a humane and just policy on the resettlement of land oustees was being formulated by the government.

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Nehru Award for Maathai

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has conferred the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 2005 on Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, one of "the leading environmentalists of our times and a true friend of India". Kalam said: "The award is in recognition of her persistent and courageous struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation."

Prof. Maathai said she had always been inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. "Instead of using their position to enrich themselves, these leaders used their power to promote the cause of justice, equity and peace."

Task Force on Climate Change

India has constituted a National Task Force to recommend domestic policy changes to mitigate the impact of climate change, according to Secretary, Environment and Forest, Dr. Pradipto Ghosh. This shows India's concern over increasing global warming leading to massive climate changes all over the world.

Ghosh, however, added that India would not change its stand at the December meeting to discuss the future of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, seeking further reduction of green house gases (GHG). Under the protocol, there is no obligation on India to reduce its GHG.

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Made in India BMWs Soon

The India-assembled high-end BMW cars are set to formally roll out at the company's assembly facility near Chennai. It will initially roll out the BMW 3 series from the new assembly plant. The company has initially invested close to $26 million in the plant, which will be used to assemble completely knocked down (CKD) kits, imported from Europe. It is expected to provide direct employment to about 200 people.

"Trial production has started and cars have been rolled out. To begin with, the company intends to roll out six cars a day,"officials said.


In response to our front page news clip 'Better exchange rates for NRIs' in the last issue of India Digest (March 15, 2007) the State Bank of India, London office, has sent us the following comments:

Dear Sir,

We refer to your issue of India Digest dated 15/03/07 wherein you had mentioned about an offer from Remit2india where amounts upto Rs. 4,500 can be earned by remitting funds through them. Compared to these free offers and money back, a remittance through State Bank of India would fetch the customer Rs. 8,42,811 even after deducting our charges (9,980 *Rs. 84.45, charges being 20).

I would request you to bring this to the notice of your readers.

Praveen Prakasam, Manager NRI Services

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