India and Italy are planning to sign a defense agreement next month to deepen the alliance. The defense agreement is foreseen to make it effortless for officials to correspond on security matters. And also to smoothen the path for Italian defense firms who look to enter India. New Delhi and Rome are currently discussing a possible visit by Rajnath Singh to Italy in May to sign the agreement. New Delhi is also planning a visit of the Italian defense minister Guido Crosetto.
The Indian and Italian foreign ministers have not answered the queries at the press time. The objective of the agreement is to reinforce coordination on defense issues. It will be in line with Italy’s desire to “reboot” its security ties with India. Italy also expects to restrain a larger foothold for its defense corporations concerned in the Indian market. Along with the major Italian companies, there is also the involvement of small and medium Italian firms. The range of feasible technologies and products is wide. They are varying from torpedoes to UAVs, from flight control systems to electronic equipment for defense. And from vessels and shipbuilding to aircraft.
Once a framework for government-level cooperation gets he agreement, the persons cited above said that defense companies will also find it easier to function.
However, persons aware of the matter also indicated that the agreement will remain limited. Given that it is not possible to facilitate major defense exercises between the two countries. Bilateral exercises will be the next frontier for the security partnership after the conclusion of the agreement.
This new pact is significant as it indicates that New Delhi and Rome have decided to put their complicated recent past behind them. In 2012, two Italian marines gunned down Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala, sparking a diplomatic crisis. After an eight-year legal battle, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in the Hague, says that Italy’s marines are tired in Italy, not India. However, it also ordered Rome to pay New Delhi compensation. In line with the court’s ruling, India’s Supreme Court closed hearings into the matter in 2021. In that same year, India revoked the ban on Italian defense firm Leonardo SpA, and the AgustaWestland chopper scandal caught the same.
The political heat generated by the Itamarines case stalled the wider security partnership between the two countries. The new defense agreement reflects a desire to open a new chapter in bilateral ties, said persons aware of the negotiations.
Outside of the agreement, Italy will also send a naval patrol vessel, the Morosini, to India in August. Italy’s Ambassador, Vincenzo de Luca, indicates that a high-level seminar between the two countries will hash out the future of bilateral cooperation on maritime security.
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