A busy schedule in Italy
By Anil Wadhwa,
Despite the global pandemic, commitments on the international diplomatic agenda continue unabated. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has just concluded a successful visit to Greece, the first in 18 years, where the two countries expressed a convergence on geopolitical and geoeconomic realities, including the Indo-Pacific. The significance lies in the fact that Greece was one of the first beneficiaries of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, with the strategic port of Piraeus coming under the control of the Chinese shipping company COSCO in 2016. As India tries to involve all countries in Europe, the prospects for a wider set of trade, investment and geographic indicators are improving. The action is now moving to the host country of the G 20, Italy.
The spotlight is on the meeting of G20 foreign ministers and the joint ministerial session of foreign and development ministers in the historic city of Matera on June 29 as well as the G-20 ministerial event on aid humanitarian aid on June 30, 2021 in the strategic port of Brindisi. which serves as a hub for the distribution of essential food aid to countries in distress through international organizations based in Rome such as the World Food Program. As usual, some bilateral meetings are also planned, first with Italy, the host country, and other important interlocutors such as the United Kingdom, Mexico and Singapore.
Italy is a member of leading regional and global groupings including the EU, the G7, the G20, NATO and the OECD. Italy is an important player for the revival and intensification of the India-EU partnership in the areas of trade, investment, connectivity, digital technologies and climate, as well as the upcoming negotiations for the agreements of trade and investment between India and the EU. Last year’s virtual summit between former Italian Prime Minister Conte and Prime Minister Modi marked an important milestone when the two countries signed a joint declaration and action plan to prioritize areas of cooperation and goals strategic for the period 2020-2025. Currently, India and Italy are important partners in key sectors such as finance, railway development, the fashion industry and automotive manufacturing. Before the start of the Covid in 2019, the volume of trade between the two countries reached 9.52 billion euros. Italy is still India’s fifth largest trading partner in the EU. Italian investment inflows to India from April to December 2020 amounted to $ 3.02 billion. Around 600 Italian companies are active in the Indian market. The focus is currently on advanced manufacturing, machine tools and metallurgy, the automotive industry, energy transition, infrastructure, with an emphasis on railways, agribusiness and information.
As India grapples with the challenges of a growing population, urbanization and climate change, Italy can be an ideal partner for India in the areas of circular economy, business solutions. ‘water and waste energy supply, pollution mitigation technologies, automation and the entire food processing chain, including food preservation, processing and logistics. There is continuous cooperation in the fields of renewable energy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, information technology, startups and innovation, e-commerce, food processing and related technologies, and products luxury. The collaboration of small and medium-sized enterprises is very promising. The India-Trent Program for Advanced Research and Mutual Forces Centers of Excellence are hallmarks of the Indo-Italy bilateral science and technology program. The importance of Italy to India in the field of shipbuilding, underwater systems, radar, electronics and high altitude equipment continues to be recognized. The military systems co-development and co-production agreement and the memoranda of understanding signed between Fincanteri and the Cochin shipyard on design, shipbuilding, manufacture and repairs are important to India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat program. Cooperation in the fight against terrorism has gone well and education is emerging as a strong area of ââcooperation. The cultural bond between the two countries, two ancient civilizations, has always been strong. Archeology and the preservation of monuments will remain a priority between the two countries. There is a 162,000 strong Indian diaspora in Italy. In 2020, India offered Italy a series of support and relief materials in light of the Covid pandemic. In the midst of the ongoing second wave of the pandemic, Italy gave India much-needed strong support, including an oxygen generation plant that was installed at the ITBP hospital in Greater Noida near from Delhi. The issue of the navies that hampered relations between the two countries from 2012 to 2016 and the issue of jurisdiction over their trial is now firmly behind the two countries following the award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the full filing and final compensation by Italy with the Indian authorities and the settlement of the issue of the trial of the Marines in Italy.
The duration of the bilateral meeting with Italy will be short, and it can be expected that in addition to a review of the action plan, the ongoing agreement on migration and mobility between the two countries as well as specific cooperation in innovation and energy focused on the energy transition underway in India and the role that Italy can play will be the focus of attention. In light of the EU’s interest in the Indo-Pacific, Italy and India can work together in the region, especially on resilient supply chains and infrastructure projects in countries third. An interesting virtual trilateral meeting between Japan, India and Italy on the Indo-Pacific and possible areas of trilateral cooperation was already organized by Italy a few weeks ago. There is convergence between India and Italy to support all connectivity issues which are based on internationally recognized norms and standards, good governance, rule of law, inclusion, transparency and rules of the fair game, as reflected in the Indo-Italian joint declaration of 6 November 2020.
India works closely with a number of Indian Ocean countries that are part of IORA under the heading of its SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) policy set out by PM Modi in 2015. Italy is a strong partner for the MENA region. countries in terms of innovation, trade and regional integration. India and Italy can join forces in cooperation projects in the Indian Ocean and MENA regions in the fields of blue economy, coastal and cruise tourism, fishing, marine resources, disaster risk reduction, academic and scientific cooperation, tourism promotion and cultural exchanges as well as maritime safety.
The Quad Summit on March 12 decided to roll out a vaccination plan for the Indo-Pacific, under which India would manufacture American vaccines with American and Japanese funds and Australia would roll out distribution in the Indo -Peaceful. Given the urgency of the mutants and multiple waves of the pandemic, there is speculation that Quad foreign ministers could meet on the sidelines of the G20 meeting to advance the timeline for this deployment plan. end of 2021., from the initial period of end of 2022. Biological E, based in Hyderabad, India, will need Japanese loans and funds from JICA of the United States Development Finance Corporation to increase production of the Johnson and Johnson Covid 19 vaccine ahead of schedule earlier.
India could take advantage of the presence of foreign ministers from South Africa and Brazil to organize a meeting of IBSA foreign ministers on the sidelines of the G-20 ministerial. Traditionally, IBSA countries have focused on issues of security, terrorism and climate change, the multilateral trading system, disarmament and South-South cooperation. India and South Africa’s efforts to waive intellectual property under the TRIPS Agreement on Health Products and Technologies, including Diagnostics, Therapeutics, Vaccines, Devices devices, protective equipment, their materials or components, and their methods and means of manufacture for the Covid 19 pandemic at the WTO as well as the role that the IBSA fund for the reduction of poverty and hunger can play in the current situation facing the world deserve special attention from this group.
(The author is a former Secretary (East) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was Ambassador of India to Italy, Poland, Oman and Thailand. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow of the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)