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An Italian PM to visit India after 10 years, Gentiloni-Modi talks on Monday

Diplomatic ties took a hit after two Italian marines were held for killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast in 2012

india Updated: Oct 28, 2017 22:34 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Italian PM,India-Italy ties,Italian marines
Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni will meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday.(AFP Photo)

An Italian Prime Minister is set to arrive in India on Sunday after a gap of 10 years — nearly four of which saw a strain in India-Italy ties over two Italian marines killing Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

“The visit is aimed at strengthening the bilateral political and economic relations between the two countries,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said about Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni’s visit to India.

The strain in India-Italy ties had spillover effect on Delhi’s relationship with European Union, country’s largest trading bloc. The last visit of an Italian Prime Minister to India was in February 2007.

Gentiloni will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the capital on Monday.

Diplomatic ties took a hit after two Italian marines, Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone were arrested on charges of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

Italy claimed the ship they were on when they committed the crime, Enrica Lexie, was in international waters and that only the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea should apply, questioning the Indian government’s jurisdiction over the case. Rome also said the marines, who were on official duty, enjoyed diplomatic impunity. India argued against all these positions.

While Latorre returned to Italy in September 2014 following an order of the Supreme Court issued on health grounds, Girone was allowed to go in May 2016. They are now in Italy, pending the verdict by the arbitration court at the Hague.

Prime Minister Gentiloni will be accompanied by his wife and a 15-member Italian CEOs delegation. Italy is India’s 5th largest trading partner in the EU with a bilateral trade of $8.79 billion in 2016-17, as per official figures.

India’s exports to Italy are at $4.90 billion, while its imports are at $3.89 billion, resulting in a trade imbalance of $1 billion in favour of India. In the first four months of fiscal 2017-18, bilateral trade has reached $3.22 billion.

There are over 600 Italian companies in India in various sectors such as fashion, textiles and textile machinery, automotives, auto components, energy and insurance.

Italy has the third largest presence of Indian community with an estimated 1,80,000 people after the UK and the Netherlands.

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 22:34 IST