Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian
counterpart Paolo Gentiloni met on October 30 to boost ties between the two
countries after relations had turned frosty following a face-off over two
Italian marines killing two Indian fishermen in 2012.
Gentiloni who arrived on Sunday on a two-day
visit, will have a one on one meeting with Modi ahead of talks between the
delegations of the two countries at noon. The two leaders will meet the top
CEOs of each other’s countries.
Gentiloni’s visit is the first by an Italian PM
in 10 years — following strain in ties between New Delhi and Rome over two
Italian marines on board the ship Enrica Lexie killing two Indian fishermen off
the Kerala coast five years ago.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will also
call on Gentiloni. The Italian PM will call on both President Ram Nath Kovind
and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.
The strain in India-Italy ties had spillover
effect on Delhi’s relationship with European Union, country’s largest trading
bloc. Romano Prodi was the last Italian Prime Minister to visit India in
Diplomatic ties took a hit after the two Italian
marines - Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone - were arrested on charges
of killing two Indian fishermen.
Italy claimed the ship, Enrica Lexie, was in
international waters when the incident happened and that only the International
Tribunal for the Law of the Sea should apply and questioned India’s
jurisdiction over the case. Rome also said the marines who were on official
duty, enjoyed diplomatic immunity. India argued against all these positions.
While Latorre returned to Italy in September 2014
on health grounds following an order of the Supreme Court, Girone was allowed
to go in May 2016. They are now in Italy pending a verdict by the arbitration
court at The Hague. Once this contentious issue was sorted out to the
satisfaction of both the countries high level visits have started between the
Prime Minister Gentiloni is accompanied by his
wife and a 15-member delegation of Italian CEOs. Italy is India’s fifth largest
trading partner in the EU with a bilateral trade of 8.79 billion US Dollars in
2016-17, according to official figures.
India’s exports to Italy are at 4.90 billion US
Dollars, while its imports are at 3.89 billion US Dollars, resulting in a trade
imbalance of 1 billion US Dollars in favour of India. In the first four months
of 2017-18 fiscal, bilateral trade has reached 3.22 billion US dollars. a
phenomenal increase over the previous years.
There are over 600 Italian companies in India in
various sectors such as fashion, textiles and textile machinery, automotives,
auto components, energy and insurance. Italy has the third largest presence of
Indian community in Europe with an estimated 1,80,000 people after the UK and