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Re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Italy have been be­dev­illed by se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences in the past eight years. The marines is­sue, the Fin­mec­ca­nica and Agus­taWest­land deals cast a long shadow. But there were signs of a thaw in ties af­ter Prime Min­is­ter GIUSEPPE CONTE’S re­cent visit to ad­dress the an­nual Tech­nol­ogy Sum­mit in New Delhi. Conte gave writ­ten an­swers to ques­tions posed by Geeta Mo­han, In­dia To­day TV’s for­eign af­fairs ed­i­tor, about his visit. Ex­cerpts:

On the cur­rent state of re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Italy

In­dia and Italy share the same prin­ci­ples of democ­racy, plu­ral­ism and re­spect for hu­man rights. We are con­vinced that by work­ing to­gether, we can pro­mote a free and fair sys­tem of in­ter­na­tional trade, fight­ing off pro­tec­tion­ism while man­ag­ing glob­al­i­sa­tion and min­imis­ing its dis­tor­tions to en­sure a fully dig­ni­fied life to all cit­i­zens, with no one left be­hind. We face the same global chal­lenges, such as the fight against cli­mate change or the im­ple­men­ta­tion of 2030 Agenda. We both be­long to the G20 and we can work to­wards the achieve­ment of sim­i­lar goals.

How to im­prove trade be­tween the two coun­tries

Bi­lat­eral trade is grow­ing, to­gether with a healthy flow of in­vest­ments, but we can do more to foster co­op­er­a­tion in sec­tors rang­ing from in­fra­struc­ture and re­new­ables to de­fence and food-pro­cess­ing. With re­gard to ‘Brexit’, I trust that In­dia and Italy will find new av­enues for co­op­er­a­tion. I see Italy’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Tech­nol­ogy Sum­mit as ‘part­ner coun­try’ as just the begin­ning of a dy­namic part­ner­ship in cut­tingedge tech­nol­ogy. We are con­vinced that we can push our re­la­tions in the field of sci­en­tific re­search and in­dus­trial in­no­va­tion to a new level, also in terms of an in­creased vol­ume of in­vest­ments.

On sup­port of In­dia’s stand on ter­ror­ism

The global na­ture of ter­ror­ist threats re­quires a global response. The largest num­ber of Ital­ian ca­su­al­ties due to a ter­ror­ist at­tack in re­cent years was in Bangladesh: nine Ital­ian cit­i­zens were killed at the Ho­ley Bak­ery at­tack in Dhaka in July 2016. This is tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence of the need to ex­pand the scope of counter-ter­ror­ist co­op­er­a­tion. Let me un­der­line the need for in­for­ma­tion and in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing, no­tably when deal­ing with the pos­si­ble re­turn of for­eign ter­ror­ist fight­ers from con­flict zones. Dis­rupt­ing the financing of ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties is also fun­da­men­tal. With In­dia, we have estab­lished a counter ter­ror­ism work­ing group. It has al­ready proved to be a use­ful tool, but we need to do more to face the global threat.

Whether de­fence re­la­tions have over­come the Fin­mec­ca­nica and Agus­taWest­land set­backs

Italy and In­dia can forge a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial part­ner­ship in the de­fence sec­tor. Con­tacts be­tween de­fence min­istries have in­ten­si­fied this year, as proved by the re­ac­ti­va­tion of the Joint De­fence Com­mit­tee. When it comes to de­fence in­dus­try and pro­cure­ment, Ital­ian com­pa­nies have de­vel­oped out­stand­ing ex­per­tise, which can con­trib­ute to the ‘Make in In­dia’ pro­gramme. The case of Agus­taWest­land was orig­i­nally raised in Italy by Ital­ian in­ves­ti­ga­tors. The ju­di­ciary has now com­pleted the trial pro­ce­dure which [re­sulted in a] fi­nal sen­tence of ac­quit­tal for the for­mer CEOs of the com­pany. In the mean­time, Leonardo (for­merly Fin­mec­ca­nica) has joined the UN Global Com­pact, which means that its strate­gies and op­er­a­tions align with univer­sal prin­ci­ples on labour rights, en­vi­ron­ment and anti-cor­rup­tion.

On the US im­pos­ing sanc­tions on Iran that may im­pact In­dia

We firmly be­lieve that sanc­tions are an in­stru­ment, not a goal, nor a pol­icy. To be ef­fec­tive, they must be widely shared at the in­ter­na­tional level. With ref­er­ence to Iran, we sup­port the JCPoA (Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion). Its im­ple­men­ta­tion can en­hance in­ter­na­tional and re­gional se­cu­rity and en­cour­age mu­tual trust among the par­ties in­volved. We are keen to iden­tify op­tions to pre­serve the agree­ment and the eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion with Iran.


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