Italy is not specifically opposed to India or any country's inclusion as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, but does not seek what it calls a "proliferation of permanent members." Unhappy about the formation of the group of four (G-4), which includes Brazil, Germany, Japan and India, Italy feels it too has a right to a permanent seat on the UNSC.
In a freewheeling conversation exclusively with the Hindustan Times, Francesco Rutelli, Deputy Prime Minister in the Italian Government, discussed differences of opinion on the issue, while speaking of the relevance of Gandhian philosophy in today's world. In India on his first ever visit to this country to attend the Satyagraha Conference, commemmorating the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's propagation of this philosophy, Rutelli's visit is part of Italy's increasing high-level engagement with India. And for any Italian visitor, the Sonia Gandhi phenomenon is "fascinating."
Rutelli, who is also Minister for Tourism and Culture, is firming up a bilateral agreement on cooperation in restoration of ancient buildings and monuments, cinema and contemporary art. The agreement, with an invitation to India to participate in the Rome Film Festival, will be among those signed when Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi visits India in February.
Why is Italy opposed to India's inclusion as a permanent member of the UNSC?
Italy is very prudent while examining the need for a proliferation of permanent members with veto powers. Italy feels it has a right to be there, if Japan and Germany make a claim. Governance of the Security Council now is not so efficient. We acknowledge that great Indian growth, political influence, population and great economy should be recognised. We are not opposed to any country, but reforms must first be implemented that will make the Council accept more responsibility and accountability and be more democratic. We (Italy and India) agree on need to reform, but we differ on the methodology.
Another area of difference has been the war on Iraq. How does your government intend to deal with the issue?
Iraq was not a safe place with Saddam Hussein. We opposed his dictatorship. But we think the Iraqi war was a big mistake. We are very deeply worried about the violence. The war will have very long-standing consequences.
How do you think Satyagraha is relevant today?
The relevance of satyagraha for me is two-fold. First, the fascination of Gandhi's success. With nothing but his bare personality, he achieved so much. Such courageous personal experience is present, contemporary and never dies.
Second, it has the ability to turn the 9/11 experience to another level, to make it positive.
September 11 (1906) is the date that Gandhi launched satyagraha in South Africa. While remembering the victims of New York, we can turn the date from a memory of terror to a positive one.
How were you influenced by Satyagraha?
My real political passion was the Gandhi experience. In my country, it was a minority experience. After the war (WWII), the majority experience was communism. Gandhi was faraway from Europe, from our culture. But I was fascinated by what I read. It was like a missing link in our experience. I gave a copy of my writing (on the subject of Gandhi and Satyagraha) to Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi.
Did you speak to her in Italian? How do you view her?
No, I only said 'Bueno Sera'. I was very respectful (when he met her earlier in the evening). She is really, really Indian in her belonging and experience. It is fascinating for us to see an Italian-born lady who feels and is so strongly an Indian. It was a "peculiar" experience. (The Italian Ambassador to India, Antonio Armellini, clarified that peculiar meant "different"). I met Nancy Pelosi (the first woman to be Speaker of the US House of Representatives) in Washington recently. She spent a lot of time remembering her Italian past.