After France, India Looks To Boost Defense & Economic Relations With Another EU Powerhouse – Italy

After strengthening ties with France, India has extended a hand towards another European Union member, Italy.

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In a virtual bilateral summit to be held today (November 6), between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Italy Prof. Giuseppe Conte, the two countries are expected to sign agreements on trade, energy, defense, environment, etc.

The summit allows the two leaders to comprehensively review the broad framework of the bilateral relationship and exchange views on major regional and global issues of mutual concern, said a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Several Government-to-Government and Private Sector agreements / Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) are under finalization and are expected to be concluded on this occasion.

“India and Italy share a warm and multifaceted relationship based on strong historical ties, common democratic traditions, rule of law, and a shared goal of international peace and stability,” the MEA statement added. “India views Italy as an important member of the EU and values its positive contribution in furthering India-EU ties.”

The volume of trade between the two countries stood at Euros 9.52 billion in 2019. Italy is India’s 5th largest trading partner in the EU, after Germany, Belgium, UK, and France. 

Around 600 large Italian companies are active in India, covering varied sectors such as fashion and garments, textiles and textile machinery, automotive components, infrastructure, chemicals, energy confectionery, insurance, etc. 

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte with Indian PM Narendra Modi. Courtesy: India in Italy (Embassy of India, Rome)

The bilateral ties between the two countries were reignited in 2018 after India and Italy were plagued with serious differences for eight years before that. The AugustaWestland case and the issue of Italian marines detained by Indian authorities led to major disagreements between the two.

However, in 2018, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s visit to Technology Summit in New Delhi helped bring the countries together again. Both sides discussed various issues to strengthen bilateral cooperation including defense, trade, energy, and infrastructure.

The leaders of both countries recognized the need for more comprehensive defense ties making them “enduring and mutually beneficial”. During the visit two years ago, Prime Minister Conte emphasized Rome’s interest in defense saying that the expertise of Italian companies can contribute to the ‘Make in India’ program.

Building on the interest shown earlier by Italy’s leadership in contributing to ‘Make in India’, this bilateral summit could materialize those plans into inked agreements.

Italian firm Fincantieri that partnered with India’s Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) to design and integrate the engine system the aircraft carrier Vikrant for the Indian Navy, is now further enhancing its cooperation with CSL, as both the firms recently signed an MoU.

Fincantieri said that it has a “long-standing partnership with the governmental group CSL, which owns facilities both on the East and West coast of India” and that it considers the Indian market as “strategic” as the Indian Navy’s decision to renew and expand its fleet.

The new MoU signed on October 27 will further enhance cooperation for design, procurement, and local construction of new vessels for the Indian defense market, including the training of Indian personnel and consultancies in design, construction, or shipyard upgrade processes.

Fincantieri also delivered two fleet tankers “Deepak” and “Shakti” to the Navy along with a research vessel “Sagar Nidhi” built for the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).