India and Italy agreed to enhance cooperation to counter terrorism as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held bilateral talks with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni on Monday. They also signed six agreements in energy, trade and railway sectors.
There was, however, no mention of the issue of two Italian marines, who have been allowed to return home while the trial is still pending against them for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012. Neither Modi mentioned the issue during his press statement after the bilateral talks, nor there was mention of it in the joint statement.
Gentiloni’s visit is aimed at smoothening the tension between the two countries over the Italian marines issue, which has become a sore-point in the relationship since February 2012. His visit is the first prime ministerial trip from Italy in more than a decade. Addressing the media with Gentiloni, Modi said they discussed wide-ranging issues, including the challenges posed by terrorism and cyber crimes, while agreeing to enhance cooperation to counter them. He also noted that there was a huge potential for enhancing India-Italy trade ties.
After the talks, Modi said, “In today’s world, we face new challenges and threats every day. We discussed in detail some of the emerging security challenges facing the world. We are both committed to fight terrorism in all its forms, and to strengthen our cooperation in cyber security. We are also committed to cooperation, and coordinate with each other on issues of shared interest in international fora.”
The joint statement said that the two leaders resolved to fight terrorism and violent extremism in all forms and manifestations. “The leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against Al Qaeda, ISIS (Da’esh) and their affiliates and all other all UN designated globally proscribed terrorists and terror entities, including those mentioned in Para 8 of the 6th Oct 2017 India-EU Joint Statement on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism,” it said, referring to Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad among others.
In this context, the leaders also called upon all the UN member countries to designate terrorist entities in line with the relevant UNSC Resolutions.
After the Modi-Gentiloni meeting, the two sides signed six pacts to deepen cooperation in the fields of railways safety, energy and promoting mutual investments, among others. Italy is India’s fifth largest trading partner in the EU (European Union) with a bilateral trade of $8.79 billion in 2016-17, as per official figures.
India’s exports to Italy were at $4.90 billion, while its imports were at $3.89 billion, resulting in a trade imbalance of $1 billion in favour of India. In the first four months of fiscal 2017-18, bilateral trade has reached $3.22 billion.
After the talks, Modi said, “There is a lot of potential for our bilateral trade of about 8.8 billion dollars to grow much further. I am glad that a high-level business delegation has accompanied Prime Minister Gentiloni on this visit. In our interaction with industry leaders from both countries, we felt a lot of optimism among them for the future potential for cooperation.”
“We would like to encourage greater participation of Italian companies in our flagship programmes and projects. There are immense possibilities for them to collaborate with Indian companies. In Smart Cities, food processing, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure and in several other sectors, our requirements match very well with Italy’s strengths and capabilities,” he said.
The India-Italy diplomatic ties were hit badly after the two Italian marines — Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone – on board Enrica Lexie were arrested for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.
Italy claimed the ship was in international waters and that only the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) should apply. It also moved the international court.
While Latorre returned to Italy in September 2014 following an order of the Supreme Court issued on health grounds, Girone was allowed to go in May 2016. They are now in Italy, pending the verdict by the arbitration court at The Hague. The Indo-Italy diplomatic row also impacted the European Union’s relationship with India.
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