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India and Italy work out road map for broader engagement

Paolo Gentiloni is the first Prime Minister from the southern European country to visit India in a decade.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2017 23:53 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India-European Union ties,India,Italy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni before their meeting in New Delhi on October 30.(AP Photo)

Italy will send five ministerial delegations to India to revamp bilateral relations, the country’s visiting premier told PM Narendra Modi on Monday, signalling a thaw in ties as the two sides pitched for a proposed free trade agreement between New Delhi and the European Union.

Paolo Gentiloni is the first Prime Minister from the southern European country to visit India in a decade that included four years of chill after two Italian marines were charged with killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012. The focus was to put bilateral ties and mutual trust back on track.

“We mark 70 years of India-Italy friendship and will continue expanding bilateral relations in years to come,” Modi said.

The countries signed six pacts, including agreements promoting energy cooperation and investment as well as cyber security and counter-terrorism measures. Also, they agreed to work for an early conclusion of the India-European Union bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA), a free trade pact with the largest bloc India does business with.

Gentiloni announced “the upcoming visits to India by several ministerial-level delegations, including those of the ministers of agriculture, culture, economy and finance and the Italian vice minister for economic development”, a joint statement said. The two sides discussed ways to revitalise India-European Union ties, vis-à-vis BTIA. Italy is India’s fifth-largest trading partner in Europe. But their frosty relationship had cast a shadow on India’s position in EU.

“The leaders expressed shared commitment to strengthening economic partnership between India and the EU and noted ongoing efforts of both sides to re-engage actively towards an early resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial India-EU broad-based trade and investment agreement,” the statement said.

Gentiloni spoke of Italy’s commitment to the government’s signature Make in India initiative through 628 Italian companies operating in India. They have invested over $2.4 billion and provide employment to over 23,000 people. The two sides will hold a meeting for enhancing bilateral defence cooperation. A meeting of the joint defence committee will be convened early next year.

Gentiloni called for more sharing of experience between India and Italy in fighting corruption. The president of Italy’s national anti-corruption authority will visit India for a dialogue.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 23:12 IST