New Delhi: Keeping the mega controversy around the AgustaWestland behind, which rattled bilateral defence and security ties between India and Italy, both sides have now decided to “elevate” the relationship and sign a wide-ranging defence agreement by engaging in all platforms under the ‘Make In India’ programme while supporting each other under the Indo-Pacific framework, multiple sources told ABP Live.
While the defence part was supposed to be signed during May-June this year, both countries are hopeful that the agreement will fructify before November, even as military-to-military engagements between both countries are on the rise once again, the sources said.
To begin with, Italy is planning to enter India’s growing warship-building industry of the Indian Navy. India’s warship construction has witnessed a massive boom in the past five years pushing international players to take notice. This is the reason why Italy’s Navy ship ITS Morosini, a Thaon di Revel-class offshore patrol vessel, was in Mumbai from August 10 to 14 for a five-month-long deployment across the Indo-Pacific region.
According to the sources, the decision to sign a defence pact, which will bring India and Italy closer than ever before in terms of security and strategic partnership, was finalised during the visit of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to India in March this year. She was the first Italian PM to visit India in the last five years.
With the signing of this agreement, Rome will be able to reposition its defence industry as a credible source of arms for the Indian armed forces, from the raging controversy that led New Delhi to ban Italian defence giant Leonardo, the sources added.
Italian Defence Firms To Participate In Make In India Initiative
Leonardo, formerly Finmeccanica, was named in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam in 2013-14. AgustaWestland was a fully owned subsidiary of aerospace giant Finmeccanica, now Leonardo SpA. In 2018, a Milan court gave a clean chit to AgustaWestland. Eventually in November 2021, India lifted the ban from the firm, putting the matter to rest. However, the deal to procure Black Shark torpedoes by the Indian Navy was also cancelled due to the ban at the time.
Italian warships are considered to be best in class and the country is keen on sharing the technology with India under co-development and co-production programmes, said the sources.
During PM Meloni’s visit to India, both sides signed an MoU on defence cooperation under which New Delhi opened the gates for Italian defence firms to participate in Make In India initiative.
“Italy and India have national and common interests to protect, and Italy is a reliable partner. The Indian Ocean is contiguous and inescapably linked to Italy’s ‘Wider Mediterranean’. It is an area which, due to its nature as a space that allows access to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and Antarctica, is a global pivot, and one in which stability and security are essential for world peace,” said a report by Rear Admiral Giuseppe Schivardi, Director of the Strategic Studies Centre, Italian Naval Staff College, Venice, who was in Mumbai for the port call by ITS Francesco Morosini. The report appeared in Gateway House.
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