Q&A: ITALIAPNGP GIUSEPPE CONTE
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.