The view on China and India from Italy. On Tuesday, speaking at the NATO Public Forum in Vilnius, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani spoke of the two major powers in the Indo-Pacific region and conveyed Rome’s strategic thinking and engagement strategy. Italy, he explained, is committed to talking with both, but in vastly different terms.
- India is “the region’s biggest democracy,” he stressed twice, noting the importance of deepening relations with it as interests, including in the field of security, converge. “Security is everywhere, and NATO needs to look at the Indo-Pacific,” where the Italian foreign policy objective is working more with India […] for better security.”
China, on the other hand, “is a counterpart – but it is not a democracy,” continued FM Tajani. “We need to talk with China, of course,” as United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just did. Still, it’s important to mark positions, and Italy’s, as he explained, is unchanged: respect for the One-China policy (“of course”) as well as for the status quo in Taiwan.
- Beijing is “very important” in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, because “if it decides to push in the right direction, we would get good results” – although China’s peace plan “is not good” as it doesn’t entail the Russian armed forces leaving the country, the condition for a peace agreement.
- The Italian politician’s scepticism extends to the economic sphere. “We can explore the Chinese market, but we need a level playing field,” he said, arguing that Italy wants competition without social and environmental dumping and equal access to State procurements.
Beyond the words. FM Tajani’s remarks come amid a wider Italian effort to bolster its presence in the Indo-Pacific region, in military, political and economic terms. This includes deepening bilateral ties with a number of countries, and especially India: when Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited PM Narendra Modi in March, the two elevated the relation to “strategic.”
- Contextually, the Italian government is leaning towards exiting China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which would further consolidate its years-long drive away from Beijing.