In the first Prime Ministerial visit from Italy to India in five years, Giorgia Meloni will visit India from March 2 to 3 and will also be the chief guest and keynote speaker at the 8th Raisina Dialogue, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced on Monday as reported by The Hindu last week. A bilateral defence cooperation agreement is likely to be announced that will also have a framework for Government-to-Government (G-to-G) deals, according to official sources.
“Prime Minister Meloni’s visit is expected to further strengthen and deepen the long-standing relationship between India and Italy,” the MEA said in a statement. Both sides will take stock of the progress on the key outcomes of the November 2020 Summit, strengthen security and defence cooperation, work towards closer economic ties, enhance opportunity for mobility of talent and give strategic guidance to ongoing collaboration in science and technology, it stated.
The bilateral defence agreement to expand defence cooperation has been in the works for few years which, sources said, would lay the ground for taking forward cooperation into new domains, including co-development and co-production of military platforms. It will also have a framework for inter-governmental agreements, a source stated.
This comes in the backdrop of G-to-Gs emerging as the preferred route for big-ticket defence deals in recent years and with several major deals lined up as part of military modernisation.
Ms. Meloni will be accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajan and a high-powered business delegation. The last prime ministerial visit from Italy to India took place in October 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ms. Meloni will hold discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues, the statement said, the meeting coming three months after they last met on the sidelines of the G20 conference in Bali. She is also scheduled to call on President Droupadi Murmu in the afternoon of March 2.
The highest-level visit comes after friction in the relationship during the last decade, especially between 2012-2015, over the arrest of Italian marines, Italy’s veto on India’s application to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the VVIP chopper scandal in India and broke the frost in the relationship. Ms. Meloni is set to visit India again in September for the G20 summit.
During the visit, a business roundtable will be organised on March 2, co-chaired by Mr. Tajani and Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal. India and Italy are celebrating 75 years of establishment of diplomatic relations this year.