India and Italy signed a defence cooperation agreement that marks a significant milestone in the bilateral relations between the two countries. Rajnath Singh, India’s Defence Minister, partook in a ceremonial reception with a Guard of Honour at Villa Madama. His arrival at Ciampino Airport was marked by a welcome from the Indian Ambassador to Italy, Dr. Neena Malhotra, and prominent Italian officials.
The agreement, signed on October 10th, 2023, outlines a framework for enhanced collaboration in defence and security matters, reflecting the shared interests and evolving geopolitical dynamics in the region.
Notably, in March 2023, the relationship between India and Italy reached a significant milestone as it was elevated to a strategic partnership during the visit of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to India. The decision to enhance their relationship reflects a shared dedication to strengthening bonds and jointly addressing global challenges.
The political relations between India and Italy were established in 1947. The two countries enjoy a cordial relationship. There have been several political and economic meetings and events that have taken place between these countries.
At its core, the defence cooperation agreement seeks to strengthen military ties and promote mutual strategic interests. Both India and Italy recognize the importance of fostering a robust defence partnership to address common security challenges and contribute to regional and global stability. The agreement encompasses a wide range of areas, including defence industry collaboration, joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and technology transfer.
The Ministry stated in a press release on the bilateral talks that during the meeting, a variety of defence cooperation issues were discussed by both sides. These included training, information sharing, maritime exercises, and maritime security. The central point of the discussion was the potential for cooperation in defence industrial activities. The two Ministers deliberated on the synergies between India and Italy in defence and explored the possibilities of joint development.
One of the key elements of the agreement is the promotion of defence industry cooperation. Both countries aim to leverage their respective strengths in defence manufacturing and technology to enhance self-reliance and boost the defence industrial base. This collaboration could involve joint research and development projects, the co-production of defence equipment, and the exchange of expertise in areas such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
The defence agreement also facilitates joint military exercises and training programs.
Mr Singh has specifically asked for Indian start-ups to be associated with Italian defence companies. He also interacted with 24 of these companies for the defence industries to work together. He mentioned that India presents exciting opportunities for co-development and co-production, emphasizing that the synergies between the capacities of Indian and Italian defence industries could be optimized for a mutually beneficial outcome. He urged Italian industry leaders such as Leonardo, Fincantieri, Electronica, Beretta, AIAD, Pasquali and many others to strengthen their supply chains with Indian defence manufacturing industries and with the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SDIM).
The agreement is a significant step to expand defence ties, following the lifting of the ban on AgustaWestland and Leonardo SpA, of the VVIp helicopter controversy, which had ruined a lot of critical Indian projects.
In November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lifted the ban on collaborations with Italy after meeting with then-Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the G20 summit in Rome. Subsequent high-level discussions, including a meeting between Singh and Italian Under Secretary of Defence Matteo Perego di Cremnago in March during Aero India in Bengaluru, underscored the importance of partnerships for arming Indian submarines and providing essential electronics and weapons to the armed forces.
The positive assessment of the emerging Indo-Pacific construct by the European Union has created a conducive environment for collaboration between India and Italy. This cooperation extends to fostering resilient supply chains and undertaking joint infrastructure projects in third countries. Notably, Italy has taken a proactive step by organizing a trilateral meeting involving India, Italy, and Japan, aimed at promoting collaboration within the Indo-Pacific framework.
Mr Singh, accompanied by Cremnago and Indian Ambassador to Italy Neena Malhotra visited Montone in Perugia Province where he paid rich tributes at a memorial recently built for Naik Yashwant Ghadge and other Indian soldiers who fought in the Italian Campaign in World War II. More than 50,000 Indian Army soldiers actively took part in the Italian campaign, with a tragic toll of over 5,700 lives lost. Their sacrifices are honored and memorialized in various cemeteries throughout Italy.
In conclusion, the agreement between India and Italy signifies a strategic collaboration in various defence aspects, encompassing security, policy, research, development, industrial co-development, co-production, and joint ventures. The signed agreement reflects a commitment to exploring joint development opportunities and fostering good relationships among the countries.