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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Modi-Gentiloni meet to boost Indo-Italian ties after recent freeze

Paolo Gentiloni’s visit is the first by an Italian Prime Minister in ten years and is aimed at strengthening bilateral political and economic relations with India.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2017 09:02 IST
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni waves after his arrival at Palam Air Force station in New Delhi Sunday.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni waves after his arrival at Palam Air Force station in New Delhi Sunday.(HT Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni will meet on Monday to boost ties between the two countries after relations had turned frosty following a face-off over two Italian marines killing two Indian fishermen in 2012.

Gentiloni who arrived on Sunday on a two-day visit, will have a 90-minute one on one meeting with Modi ahead of talks between the delegations of the two countries at noon.

The two leaders will meet the top CEOs of each other’s countries.

Gentiloni’s visit is the first by an Italian PM in 10 years — nearly four of which saw a strain in ties between New Delhi and Rome over two Italian marines killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast 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.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will also call on Gentiloni. The Italian PM will visit both President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

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

Diplomatic ties took a hit after the two Italian marines - Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone - were arrested on charges of killing two Indian fishermen.

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

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

Prime Minister Gentiloni is accompanied by his wife and a 15-member delegation of Italian CEOs. Italy is India’s fifth largest trading partner in the EU with a bilateral trade of $8.79 billion in 2016-17, according to 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 2017-18 fiscal, 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 in Europe with an estimated 1,80,000 people after the UK and the Netherlands.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 08:53 IST