A Tough Ital­ian Job for PM Modi


The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - PRANAB DHAL SAMANTA

Italy is an un­usual can­di­date as an In­dian for­eign pol­icy prob­lem. But like it or not, in cur­rent cir­cum­stances, the coun­try ranks right up there as both a diplo­matic chal­lenge and an ob­sta­cle for New Delhi.

Maybe, it’s not quite in the cat­e­gory of a China or a Pakistan as some of­fi­cials would over­stretch, but its ef­fect has been some­what dra­matic, es­pe­cially on Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s term so far. The re­cent Agus­taWest­land court or­der has only made mat­ters more com­pli­cated as it comes at a time when quiet but hec­tic ef­forts are un­der­way to re­pair the re­la­tion­ship.

The fact is Indo-Ital­ian re­la­tions are at its ebb to­day. Italy is the only coun­try stand­ing be­tween In­dia and its mem­ber­ship of Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime (MTCR), a cher­ished strate­gic goal for which Modi has got US President Barack Obama’s sup­port. It was felt that this would be a cake­walk be­cause usual naysayer China is not a mem­ber of the MTCR but an­gered by the marines case, Italy put a block just like China has raised ques­tions in the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group.

Not just that, due to the marines is­sue, Italy blocked the an­nual In­dia-EU sum­mit meet for two years, with Modi hav­ing to re­work his cal­en­dar each time be­cause the EU wouldn’t con­firm dates. It was only last month that the first proper In­dia-EU sum­mit could be or­gan­ised.

The score­sheet on the bi­lat­eral front is also abysmal. There have been no sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal vis­its from ei­ther side in three years. Gen­eral po­lit­i­cal con­tact has been low, while trade has dipped since 2011.

Over the last few months, South Block man­darins have been work­ing be­low the radar try­ing to fix the prob­lem. As the marines is­sue moved into in­ter­na­tional ar­bi­tra­tion, New Delhi too has con­sciously avoided tak­ing hard po­si­tions on this po­lit­i­cally volatile is­sue. Grad­u­ally, the diplo­matic project of main­stream­ing the re­la­tion­ship with Italy is what also re­sulted in Ital­ian com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pat­ing in some ‘Make in In­dia’ events.

The In­dian goal for now is to get the MTCR mem­ber­ship done be­fore the Obama pres­i­dency ends. But for that to hap- pen, Italy must re­move its ob­jec­tion. It’s at this del­i­cate mo­ment of ma­noeu­vre that the chop­per con­tro­versy has resur­faced, putting the re­la­tion­ship back un­der scru­tiny just as the PM pre­pares to fly to the US in two months for the sec­ond time this year with mem­ber­ships to MTCR and NSG his lead items on the pri­or­ity list.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.