Italian and Indian navies shake hands in the Med. In late July, India’s frontline destroyer INS Chennai undertook a passage exercise with Italy’s amphibious transport dock San Marco in Mediterranean waters. The event was part of the Indian Navy’s “focus on strengthening partnerships with like-minded navies” and geared at “foster[ing] mutual trust towards the common goal of secure seas,” according to an official communiquè.
- The exercise, which involved tactical and replenishment manoeuvres and communication drills, was intended to “enhance interoperability between the two navies.”
- It also marks India’s commitment to naval diplomacy in the Mediterranean Sea – a reflection of Western countries’ expanding engagement in Indo-Pacific waters.
A security-heavy friendship. The joint exercise highlighted the growing entente between Rome and New Delhi, which upgraded their relationship to “strategic” back in March when Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni shook hands with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and signed a host of bilateral agreements.
- Defence was the bedrock of the rapprochement, which featured a deal to improve cooperation and facilitate the development of industrial partnerships, information exchange and training courses.
- This framework gives Italian defence companies an opportunity to expand within the vast and growing Indian market, as New Delhi (which is historically dependent on Russian hardware) is looking to increase its access to Western know-how and equipment.
- Meanwhile, Rome has increased its military presence in the Indian Ocean – along with the wider Indo-Pacific area – eliciting praise from the United States.
The Med speaks Indo-Pacific. Other agreements ranged from boosting trade to tech and security. They included Italy’s entrance into the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative – based on the “Security And Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) initiative, announced by PM Modi in 2015, which became one of the region’s defining systems of cooperation and dialogue between like-minded countries.
- All this is part of Italy’s wider effort to intensify its Indo-Pacific projection, building on the concept of indivisible security – which holds that local destabilisation has global repercussions.
- Rome is also boosting its defence cooperation with Tokyo (the two capitals became strategic partners in early 2023) and building deeper ties with other Eastern partners…
- … so as to promote democratic-based cooperation and limit autocratic assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.