Overcoming the freeze in ties on the marines issue for over five years, India and Italy on Monday agreed to boost economic ties from the current bilateral trade level of $8.8 billion as the two sides signed six agreements, including on mutual investments and energy, following delegation-level talks headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni here.
“India and Italy are two large economies of the world and there is a lot of scope to boost our commercial cooperation,” Modi said in a joint address to the media following talks with Gentiloni, the first Italian Prime Minister to visit India in 10 years.
“There is immense potential to increase our bilateral trade from the current levels of $8.8 billion,” he said.
He said discussions with members of a high-level Italian business delegation accompanying Gentiloni has left him with a lot of optimism
He called for more participation of Italian companies in India’s flagship programmes in collaboration with Indian companies.
“Our requirements in sectors like smart cities, food processing, pharmaceuticals and infrastructure match the expertise and capabilities of Italy,” Modi stated, adding that Italy would be the focus country in the World Food India to be held in November.
Diplomatic ties between India and Italy came to a near freeze following the February, 2012 firing by two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, from merchant vessel Enrica Lexie, killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala.
The case is now with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (Itlos) at the The Hague and India has allowed both the marines to return to Italy.
The stand-off between New Delhi and Rome also affected the talks for a free trade pact between the European Union and India.
According to a joint statement issued following the talks, both Modi and Gentiloni “appreciated the strong India-Italy economic linkages and committed to work in a result-oriented and mutually beneficial manner by injecting a renewed momentum into the broad-based economic engagement between the two countries”.
“PM 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,” it stated.
“PM Gentiloni also called upon Indian industry to identify business opportunities, including in Italy’s textile, automotive, leather, machinery and chemical sectors.”
The Italian Prime Minister also highlighted his country’s commitment to the Make inIndia initiative through the activities of the 628 Italian companies which have invested over $2.4 billion and provide employment to over 23,000 people in India.
According to the statement, both leaders announced the organisation of an Indo-Italian High Level Forum on Design, with a focus on industrial design, auto design, architecture, interior design, and fashion.
Gentiloni also underlined Italy’s industrial expertise in the defence sector, and the renewed interest of Italian industry in participating in defence manufacturing under the Make in India initiative.
“In the area of smart cities, both sides expressed their intent to identify specific areas for cooperation,” the statement said.
“The Indian side welcomed the Italian initiative to share their experience in the area of urban rehabilitation, advanced technology solutions in the area of energy management (from smart grids to electric mobility networks), affordable housing and waste management,” it stated.
Both Modi and Gentiloni expressed their shared commitment to strengthening the economic partnership between India and the European Union (EU) and noted the ongoing efforts of both sides to reengage actively towards an early resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial India-EU Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), according to the statement.
In his address to the media, Modi highlighted science and technology another area of cooperation between the two countries and said that Italy was emerging as a destination of choice for higher education among Indian students.
Stressing on cultural contacts and cooperation, he said: “I was pleased to know that a lot of people in Italy have a deep and abiding interest in Indian culture, cuisine, cinema, music, dance, yoga and ayurveda.”
The Indian Prime Minister called for strengthening cooperation in tourism and people to people exchanges to strengthen such links further.
“We discussed in detail some of the emerging security challenges facing the world,” Modi said.
“We are both committed to fight terrorism in all its forms, and to strengthen our cooperation in cyber security.”
Following Friday’s talks, the two sides signed six agreements, including two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on cooperation in mutual investments and in the field of energy, and a joint declaration of intent of cooperation for safety in the railway sector.
Gentiloni arrived here on Sunday in what is the first Italian prime ministerial visit to India in over decade after the visit of then Prime Minister Romano Prodi in February 2007.
Indo-Italian ties got a breather when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited the Vatican in September last year for the canonisation of Mother Teresa.