India, Italy to upscale economic ties, enhance counter-terror cooperation


Resetting their bilateral ties on an upward trajectory after a prolonged chill following the Marines incident, India and Italy have decided to enhance counter-terror cooperation and upscale their economic relationship.

The first visit by an Italian prime minister in a decade by Paolo Gentiloni October 30 ended a hiatus of 10 years and firmed up a template for accelerating India-Italy partnership across the spectrum.  Mr Gentiloni’s visit marks significant step forward since the two countries were embroiled in a crisis involving two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in sea in 2012. The visit paves the way for a series of high-level Italian delegations that are scheduled to visit India in the coming days.

While the joint statement by the two countries emphasized convergence on a number of international issues like terrorism, climate change, UN reforms and non-proliferation efforts, there was a careful avoidance of the international legal dispute of the marines’ case. India’s deepening ties with the European Union has necessitated a close cooperation with the member states who are looking at India for political support at a time when the credibility of the EU has been challenged by secessionist forces.

Both the leaders expressed the need to widen the trade ties between the two large economies, taking it much beyond the current figure of USD 8.8 billion. While Mr. Modi called upon the Italian industry to explore India’s untapped business opportunities in the infrastructure, food processing, renewable energy, and high-tech manufacturing sectors, the Italian PM invited Indian business interest in Italy’s textile, automotive, leather, machinery and chemical sectors. The “Make in India” initiative has been a popular selling point of India’s engagement with its foreign partners and Mr. Gentiloni expressed his commitment to the initiative by highlighting the role of 628 Italian companies with an investment of over $2.4 billion providing employment to over 23,000 people in India. An ‘Indo-Italian High Level Forum on Design’ is to be established focussing on industrial design, auto design, architecture, interior design, and fashion. Its first meeting has been scheduled for March 2018. Mr Modi also sought Italy’s cooperation in the government’s launch of the Smart Cities programme and in areas like food processing, pharma and infrastructure.

Six MoUs were signed by the two countries in renewable energy sector, trade, investment, agriculture, railway safety and culture. On terrorism, both countries agreed to boost the consultation mechanism by exchanging assessments and information and training and capacity building on a regular basis. Italy’s successful de-radicalization programme is a lesson for India and the rest of Europe grappling with the treat of rising extremist forces.

The two countries also decided to deepen the cultural ties and people-to-people contact to reinforce their growing partnership. Educational engagement, investment in science and technology and space research and conservation efforts will be explored in the joint partnership plans.

(Pritha Mahanti contributed inputs for this article)



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