India-Italy defence cooperation on cards during PM Meloni's New Delhi visit

21 Feb 2023

India and Italy are likely to discuss in detail the bilateral defence cooperation as part of the formal agenda of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's visit to India this month, reports said. Meloni is the chief guest at the Raisina Dialogue conference on March 2 in New Delhi. Meloni's India visit will entail a series of high-profile meetings, including with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The reports delving into India-Italy defence cooperation emerge less than a week after India's defence minister Rajnath Singh held talks with Italian State Secretary for Defence Matteo Perego Di Cremnago in Bengaluru on the sidelines of the Aero India show, the first such visit in several years.

"A general agreement on bilateral cooperation in the defence sector [is being discussed]," The Hindu newspaper cited a diplomatic source as saying. The source cited by the paper added that if the talks do not conclude during Meloni’s visit in March, the agreement will be ready for signing during her next visit to India in September for the G-20 summit.

Giorgia Meloni will be the third Italian Prime Minister to visit India in the last ten years after Paolo Gentiloni in 2017, and Giuseppe Conte in 2018.

India-Italy ties: A difficult recent past embedded in an honoured history
India-Italy ties nosedived significantly during 2012-2015 over the arrest of two Italian marines for the killing of two Kerala fishermen off the Indian coast. Rome also vetoed New Delhi's bid to join the Missile Technology Control Regime shortly after.

However, the last few years have seen a continuous effort being made by the two sides to put the ghosts of a difficult recent past behind them. In the case of the Italian marines, the Modi government decided to send the marines back to Italy. The case was resolved mutually at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which said that the marines had immunity when they shot at the Indian fishermen and were not under Indian jurisdiction. India chose not to appeal the verdict.

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