India, Italy elevate ties to strategic partnership, sign MoU on defence cooperation

Italy and India called for the cessation of hostilities and expressed their serious concern about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine

March 02, 2023 09:24 pm | Updated 09:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ceremonial Reception of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on March 2, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ceremonial Reception of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on March 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

Ending the chill in the bilateral relationship in the last few years, in what Foreign Secretary Vinay M. Kwatra described as “legacy issues” now behind, India and Italy on Thursday announced the elevation of the bilateral relationship to the level of strategic partnership while also concluding a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni after bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoped that India with its G20 Presidency could play a central role in “facilitating a negotiating process for the cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine.

“Today, we are announcing the establishment of a ‘Startup Bridge’ between India and Italy. Another important area of our mutual cooperation is defence. We have also decided to organise the joint military exercises and training courses on a regular basis,” Mr. Modi said in the joint press statement after the talks.

Also read: Giorgia Meloni | God, family and homeland

Briefing on the outcome of the bilateral talks, Mr. Kwatra said on the MoU defence cooperation, “In terms of sub-sectors within, it is clear that with legacy issues behind us, the door is now open for industries on the two sides to cooperate more strongly in this area particularly in the field of manufacturing, co-production, co-design and co-innovation, military exercises to be expanded and deepened to all levels of the armed forces and maritime cooperation.”

Welcoming Italy’s active participation in the Indo-Pacific, Mr. Modi said that Italy had decided to join the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI). “This will enable us to identify concrete themes for enhancing our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” he stated.

The two countries also concluded a Declaration of Intent (DOI) on migration and mobility on which Mr. Modi said once the mutual settlements came into being, it “will usher in the new era of mutual cooperation in many fields, especially education.”

In her statement, Ms. Meloni said with its G20 Presidency, India could very much represent the interests of the global south. Talking of the situation in Ukraine, she said, “We hope that India having a G20 Presidency can play a central role in facilitating a negotiating process for the cessation of hostilities for a just peace [in Ukraine]. Keeping the multilateral community united is important and we hope the Indian Presidency can do even more.”

In this regard, Ms. Meloni pledged complete support from Italy for the upcoming G20 summit. “PM Modi knows that he can rely on us, on our cooperation and full round support for the upcoming G20 summit, and to further enhance our relationship. I firmly believe that there is a lot we can do together,” she added.

Also read: India makes renewed push for consensus at G20 Foreign Ministers meeting

Mr. Modi invited Italy to partner in ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ while both leaders laid special focus on the areas of renewable energy, green hydrogen, IT, telecom, space among others.

Italy reiterated its strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian armed forces, the joint statement issued after the talks said. “Italy and India called for the cessation of hostilities and expressed their serious concern about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The two Prime Ministers discussed the destabilising effect of the conflict in Ukraine and its broader regional and global implications.”

Strategic areas of cooperation

In addition to defence, Mr. Kwatra identified space, cyber and sea as specific strategic areas for cooperation and said work would now begin to identify specific proposals for cooperation. Another area was Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and under it joint exercises to better prepare our systems to respond to such challenges however they occur in the world, he said.

Both the leaders also talked of the increasing bilateral trade which last year reached an all-time high of $15bn. As part of the consultations, a CEO roundtable was held between business delegations of the two sides.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, the MoU on defence cooperation which has been in the works for few years now, and also has a framework for concluding Inter-Governmental Agreements..

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