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India-Italy Ties: Modi-Meloni up Bilateral Level but China Question Is Sidelined

Italy's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative signed by Conte govt was not brought up in Giorgia's speech.

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She did it. Giorgia Meloni read her speech (in English, a language she does not speak, and with a well-rehearsed accent) at the Raisina Dialogue in a dignified and sober way, making a success out of her first 'bilateral meeting in Asia', as she said.

Ok, the speech was quite boring, nothing like the lively Giorgia we Italians know except for two moments: when she with Sergej Lavrov sitting in front of her, declared that “Russia invaded Ukraine in violation of all the international laws” and got a standing ovation from at least half of the hall; and when she was talking of identity and culture looking straight, with a smile at Narendra Modi to whom she had previously said: “I hope to reach, during my tenure, the heights of the Indian Prime Minister who is known to be the most beloved leader in the world".

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India-Italy Ties Translate to Strategic Partnership

Having arrived in Delhi with her six years old daughter Ginevra, Meloni goes back with a bust of Gandhi received as a gift at Rajghat and the certainty of having consolidated, and by a great deal, the relations between Italy and India.

"This year India and Italy are are celebrating the 75th anniversary.. relations. On this occasion, we have decided to elevate the India-Italy partnership to the status of a strategic partnership,” declared the two Prime Ministers during a joint press conference, announcing the creation of a "Start-up Bridge" between Italy and India with "particular emphasis on increasing cooperation in sectors such as renewable energy, green hydrogen, IT, semiconductors, telecommunications, and space."

On the other hand, Meloni said, trade between Italy and India has more than doubled in the past two years, reaching a record 15 billion euros in 2022. Over 600 Italian companies are present in India, and Italy has previously identified India to be among its top five priority countries for business. Military cooperation and trade agreements were revived, especially after Italy's Leonardo was 'unfrozen' by the import blockade over the Westland-Agusta scandal.
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The two premiers also announced the establishment on a regular basis of joint exercises and training courses between their respective Armed Forces. India and Italy also have a Military Cooperation Group, a forum established to encourage defence cooperation between the two countries through regular talks held between various defence headquarters, and have been working shoulder-to-shoulder since long on issues such as terrorism and separatism.

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On China and Other Contentions

Gone are the days when the relations between the two countries nosedived over the arrest of two Italian marines for the killing of two Kerala fishermen off the Indian coast: the issue had been solved long ago, and other elephants in the room of the mutual relations between India and Italy seem to be disappeared for good.

Meloni did not even accidentally utter, as everyone expected, the word 'China'. Nor was the ill-fated agreement on Italy's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) signed by the Conte government ever mentioned. But she put something heavier on the plate: “It is a matter of great pleasure that Italy has decided to join the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative. This will enable us to identify concrete themes for enhancing our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Modi said.

Joining the IPOI, Italy will take along with Singapore, the lead of the pillar of scientific, technological, and academic cooperation. The IPOI is a New Delhi-sponsored initiative to enhance cooperation on maritime transport and trade connectivity, maritime safety, marine ecology and resources, disaster risk reduction, management, science, and technology, and academic collaboration.

The announcement had been overdue for a while since a 'trilateral partnership' between India, Japan, and Italy had been announced in 2021 but, after being formally launched, had not been made operational.
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Then, in 2023, Italy had elevated relations with Japan to the status of 'strategic partnership' similar to the one inaugurated now with India, thus, facilitating greater Italian involvement in the dynamics, and that led to today's declarations, anticipated by rumors of dispatch of the Italian patrol ship Morosini to the Indo-Pacific recently.

Although she looked at moments, a bit bewildered, Giorgia ended her visit with undeniable diplomatic success. She'll be in Delhi again in September, for the G20 meeting of the Head of States.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Narendra Modi   G20 summit   India-Italy 

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