"This is a very difficult time for bilateral relations," Italian consul general Ugo Ciarlatani said at the annual regional meeting of the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday.

Italian tourist and business travel into the country has dropped by almost half as a result of two prominent controversies involving his country in the last two years, Consul General of Italy in Mumbai Ugo Ciarlatani said here on Wednesday.

“This is a very difficult time for bilateral relations,” the consul general said at the annual regional meeting of the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday. “Indian [visa] institutions in Italy are facing a drop of 50 per cent in issue of visas” in the last couple of years, he said.

That the country’s powerful political leader is of Italian origin has also not helped the situation much, he added in a lighter vein.

The two issues need to be sorted out to restore the ties. “I don’t want to sound pessimistic but it can be even worse as the Indian — and may be Italian elections — are in front of us,” Mr. Ciarlatani said.

He was referring to the cases of two Italian marines shooting down two fishermen in Kerala waters in February 2012 and the Agusta Westland VVIP helicopter scam — in which Italy’s Finmeccanica allegedly bribed some Indian military brass and agents to bag the now cancelled Rs. 3,600-crore contract. (The Defence Minister cancelled the contract on January 1 this year.)

“Unfortunately, many things that usually are not very well understood by many are affecting the relationships,” according to Mr. Ciarlatani, who said travel decisions to India were being affected back home as Italian media continue to discuss the marines issue.

However, Indians travelling to Italy were not affected. His office had fast-tracked issuing of the European Shengen visa for Indian companies to within a few days.

Single e-window

State Commissioner for Industries and Commerce Maheshwar Rao spoke on new investor facilitation steps such as the online single-window clearance proposal and land allotment approvals.

RELATED NEWS

An unjustified delayFebruary 4, 2014

More In: Karnataka | National