India, Italy mend relations after marines’ row, sign 6 agreements

COOPERATION: Pacts to promote investments and cooperate in energy, railways and culture –

NEW DELHI: India and Italy sought to mend ties on Monday following years of tensions over the arrests of Italian marines suspected of shooting dead Indian fishermen.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni held talks with his Indian Premier Narendra Modi in New Delhi and the two sides signed six agreements.
“From our talks today, I felt we both are interested in taking our bilateral relations to a new height. Your visit has helped us set new priorities for our relationship,” said Modi, appearing alongside Gentiloni.
The six pacts included those to promote investments and cooperate in areas such as energy, railways and culture. Italy is among India’s five largest trading partners in the European Union, with trade worth $ 8.8 billion in 2016-17.
“I think the relaunching of our diplomatic relationship will produce great opportunities for both countries,” said Gentiloni, the first Italian premier to visit India in a decade.
“Italy and India share a joint stand on global challenges like climate change, the fight against terrorism and protection of democratic values.”
“We will build on this message of friendship from our discussions today,” he added.
Relations have been tense since 2012, when Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre were arrested in India, suspected of accidentally shooting dead two Indian fishermen during anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.
They were later released on bail and allowed to return to Italy but their arrest and subsequent legal action in India led to a near freeze of diplomatic relations.
Italy maintained the incident took place in international waters and that India was acting outside its jurisdiction.
The two countries are currently fighting a legal battle on the issue at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
The Modi-Gentiloni talks focused on bringing fresh momentum to bilateral relations including trade and investment. The discussions also covered cooperation in cyber-security as well as science and technology.
The two countries are celebrating 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2018, which will see year-long cultural performances, exhibitions and seminars in each other’s country.
Gentiloni arrived in New Delhi on Sunday on a two-day tour, the first visit by an Italian premier since Romano Prodi visited in 2007.
Earlier on Monday, the Italian leader was given a ceremonial reception at the presidential palace, after which he and Modi met top business leaders from both countries.
Gentiloni also held meetings with President Ram Nath Kovind and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. He was scheduled to conclude his visit late on Monday. — dpa