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A dramatic Mumbai confession

The lone surviving gunman of the Mumbai terror attacks suddenly confesses, revealing details of the attack. Hillary Clinton pays a visit and gets rebuffed on climate change. A Mumbai citizen becomes the first owner of the Nano; the ultra-cheap car will be exported to the U.S. in the future. Plus, India's first shiny new Wal-Mart opens to a rush of gawkers.

Top News: Backtracking on his earlier vehement denials, the lone survivor amongst the terrorist gunmen accused in the gruesome attack on Mumbai last November that killed 166 people offered a startling and dramatic confession in the Mumbai court where he was being tried.  


Minutes before another witness was to take the stand, the gunman Ajmal Kasab got to his feet and told the judge that he pleaded guilty to carrying out the attacks, detailing the planning and execution of the attack starting with his group’s departure from Pakistan and ending with the multiple attacks on five-star hotels, a café, a train station and a Jewish center in Mumbai. India has maintained that it has a well sewn-up case against Kasab.  His unexpected confession will probably speed up and bring finality to the trial in a country where the labyrinthine system drags out cases for decades.  Since the incident, India-Pakistan relations have been uneasy. It wasn't until recent weeks that the prime ministers of the two nuclear-armed countries have initiated renewed talks.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded a five-day visit to India, surrounded by unprecedented security.  Clinton said she was optimistic about getting an international climate change deal to satisfy India. But India has steadfastly refused to accept limits on greenhouse gas emissions imposed by the West. Like China, India questions the emission limits for developing countries. India’s environment minister told Secretary Clinton that there was “no case” for putting pressure on India. To round off the visit, India and the United States agreed on an end-use monitoring agreement that is expected to lead to more defense deals between the two countries.  India says it will help locate two nuclear parks for American companies. 


After a period of scant rainfall, heavy showers wrought havoc in Kerala and Orissa, killing 95 people and damaging crops countrywide.  Rains have submerged Mumbai city, disrupted train links across the country and caused flash floods.  Ironically, weather experts have warned that the country may need to prepare for a drought.


Money: A Mumbai resident, Ashok Vichare, became the first owner of the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, at about $2,500.  The Nano has passed early crash and side-impact tests in Europe and is expected to enter the U.S. market in a couple of years. In traffic-choked India, Tata Motors, the manufacturer of the Nano, has a huge surfeit of orders.


Gold and jewelry traders in India, the world’s largest consumer of gold, are stockpiling and gearing up for the coming wedding and festival season and expecting a spurt in prices.  Gold buying has declined in recent months after the rupee fell in value and pushed up costs.  The October-December period is India’s busiest gold-buying season.


India’s space dreams crashed somewhat last week when its only unmanned moon-orbiting satellite Chandraayan (meaning "moon craft") nearly failed after overheating.  But the famed Indian ingenuity came into play as officials managed to improvise and save the mission. India hopes to land a spacecraft on the moon in 2011. Close to $100 million has been spent on this particular mission, a sore point for many Indians who believe that money is better spent on providing basic facilities like health care, running water and primary schools to millions of poor Indians.


India’s economy may have something to applaud, but is it enough?  The operating margins of over 100 companies which have declared their first quarter results have improved and had a healthy increase in profits.  But revenue growth is in the single-digits and analysts wonder whether it is too early to call a recovery.


Other news: Like relatives swarming to see a new bride, thousands of Indians flocked to India’s first Wal-Mart in Amritsar in the Punjab state of northern India.  Many of them accumstomed to routine, noisy bargaining with pushcart vendors and in roadside open-air markets, gawked in wonder at the neatly-placed stacks of produce and products in the wide aisles.  They openly confessed that they came to enjoy the bright lights and cool air-conditioning.  Because of laws forbidding retail stores, Wal-Mart is operating only a cash-and-carry hypermarket which can sell to business owners and wholesalers.  What’s more, it's not called Wal-Mart either, but "BestPrice Modern Wholesale."