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Meloni’s upcoming India visit heralds new defence agreement

Meloni Modi
According to The Hindu, the Italian PM will meet her Indian counterpart in early March and attend the Raisina Dialogue conference. Her visit is expected to ease old tensions and usher in a new bilateral defence cooperation. Here’s how Italy is expanding its efforts in the Indo-Pacific

Meloni is India-bound. In early March, the Italian Prime Minister will travel to Delhi and attend the Raisina Dialogue conference as chief guest. There she’ll also meet with PM Narendra Modi, whom she last saw at the Bali G-20 Conference in November – where the two promised to strengthen ties.

  • As The Hindu reports, the visit is “expected to end a frost-filled decade” – caused by frictions over the arrest of two Italian marines – and put it, along with other issues, “firmly behind”…
  • …thanks to a new bilateral defence cooperation framework, which will “likely be announced” during PM Meloni’s visit.

Defence as a springboard. “A general agreement on bilateral cooperation in the defence sector is being discussed,” a diplomatic source told The Hindu, adding that if talks end up taking longer, the agreement will nonetheless be ready for signing during her next visit to India, in September, for the G-20 summit.

  • Former Indian Ambassador to Italy Anil Wadhwa told the paper that the last few years “have seen a continuous effort being made by both sides” to overcome past controversies and concentrate on economic efforts.
  • Though bilateral ties suffered, Italy remained involved in India’s defence industry via its leading shipbuilder Fincantieri – the know-how provider for technology upgrade and capability enhancement for India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier project, the INS Vikrant, commissioned in September 2022.
  • Also, days after Mr Modi met with then-Italian PM Mario Draghi on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Rome, the Indian Defence Ministry lifted the ban on Italian defence company Leonardo.

Preparatory work is underway. Last week, the Italian State Undersecretary for Defence, Matteo Perego Di Cremnago (who was acting on behalf of Defence Minister Guido Crosetto), spoke with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the sidelines of the Aero India show in Bengaluru. He also met the Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, with whom he discussed collaboration in the air, underwater and electronic warfare domains.

  • “The roughly 14 billion interchange with [Italy], though up 42 % from the previous year, is far below the potential,” Mr Perego told government representatives at the Conclave of Defence Ministers in Bengaluru, emphasising the current and projected size of India’s population and economic power.
  • He also noted that Italian companies across the naval, aviation, electronics and munition sectors must seize New Delhi’s “progressive diversification from Russian dependence and the ‘Make in India’ strategy” as an opportunity.
  • “My presence here, and especially the forthcoming meetings of the Italian government’s top leadership, together with the work towards signing a new defence cooperation agreement, mark a new season of emphasising relations between our two countries,” he concluded.

Italy looks to the Indo-Pacific. Rome is increasingly intent on honouring the concept of “indivisible security” – meaning that scenarios across the world, in an interconnected world, have immediate repercussions back at home. As such, it’s upping its efforts in Asia, especially via defence deals.

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