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Meloni in Delhi
  • Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
    Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
"This year India and Italy are celebrating the 75th anniversary of their relations. On this occasion, we have decided to elevate the India-Italy partnership to the status of a strategic partnership," said Narendra Modi and Giorgia Meloni side by side during the joint press conference following the bilateral summit between the two. Speaking one in Hindi and the other in Italian, but nevertheless communicating perfectly. "I hope to reach, during my term, the heights of approval of the Indian prime minister, known to be the most beloved leader in the world," said Meloni: and the Indian press fell in love with her. The only criticisms, all things considered, concerned her sartorial choices and her emphasis, during her speech at the Raisina Dialogue geopolitical conference at which she was guest of honor, on Europe's Judaeo-Christian roots. On the other hand, during the same speech Giorgia, with Lavrov seated in the audience, reiterated the illegality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and got a loud applause. The speech at the Rasina was rather mannered, but the substantive announcements had already been made. Meloni and Modi had announced the creation of a "Start-up Bridge" between Italy and India with "particular emphasis on increasing cooperation in sectors such as renewable energy, green hydrogen, information technology, semiconductors, telecommunications and space." On the other hand, the two said, the volume of trade between Italy and India has more than doubled in the past two years, reaching a record 15 billion euros by 2022. About six hundred Italian companies have a presence in India, which has become an increasingly attractive market for both manufacturing and trade thanks in part to the 'Make in India' program launched in 2014. Cooperation and trade agreements in the military field were also relaunched, especially after Italy's Leonardo was 'unfrozen' by the import blockade over the Westland-Agusta scandal now forgotten and settled in court. And the two premiers also announced the establishment on a regular basis of joint exercises and training courses between their respective Armed Forces. India and Italy are also exploring joint productions in the defense and aerospace sectors and technology transfers, as evidenced by the agreement between Italy's state-owned Fincantieri and India's Cochin Shipyard Limited. In addition, India and Italy are part of a joint working group on counter-terrorism. Those who expected Meloni to take an open stance on China, however, were disappointed. The word China was never mentioned, not even by accident, by Giorgia: despite the fact that everyone in Delhi wonders how and if Italy will be able to disengage from the ill-fated Belt and Road Initiative membership. On the other hand, the change of strategy toward China appeared clear-cut while not voicing open opposition. "It is a source of great satisfaction for us that Italy has decided to join the Indo Pacific Ocean Initiative. This will allow us to identify concrete issues to strengthen our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific," said Narendra Modi. By joining IPOI, Italy will, together with Singapore, take the lead in the pillar of scientific, technological and academic cooperation. IPOI is a New Delhi-sponsored initiative to strengthen cooperation in maritime transport and trade connectivity, maritime security, marine ecology and resources, disaster risk reduction and management, science and technology, and academic collaboration, and the announcement of Italy's membership was somewhat expected: since an Italy-India-Japan 'trilateral partnership' had been concluded in 2021, and from rumors, just before Giorgia Meloni's arrival in Delhi, of the sending of the patrol ship Morosini to the Indo-Pacific. Thus ends a long season, lasting nearly a decade, of uncertain and difficult relations between Italy and India. Due to the unfortunate (and mismanaged) issue of the two Italian marines who had killed two Indian fishermen off the Indian coast but, above all, to the cumbersome ghosts that had been hovering in the room for much longer whenever the word Italy was mentioned in India. The agreements reached between Meloni and Modi, and the invitation as guest of honor at the Raisina Dialogue, are certainly the result of a long diplomatic work carried out in recent years, which began in 2017 with the visit to India by then-Premier Gentiloni and gradually continued with Conte's visit and the meeting between Modi and Draghi on the sidelines of the G20 in 2021. Above all, however, they are a sign of a significant change at a political level: the ghosts are definitely gone, Italy becomes a country like any other with which to relate from time to time on the basis of common interests and concrete initiatives.
Francesca Marino