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2017-10-30

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Fresh start:Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni and his wife, Emanuela Gentiloni, arriving in New Delhi on Sunday.R.V. MoorthyR_V_Moorthy  

A range of multilateral and bilateral subjects are likely to be in focus during the visit of Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni that begins on Monday.

The visit, which comes after both sides managed to contain the diplomatic fallout of the marines crisis, is for a day. Diplomats indicated that India’s global push for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership and bilateral trade are likely to be on top of the agenda.

During the visit, Mr. Gentiloni will meet with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following which a number of bilateral agreements are to be signed in the Hyderabad House. Mr. Gentiloni is also scheduled to deliver a lecture at the Observer Research Foundation on Monday evening and hold talks with President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu.

Natural partners

Italy’s support for India’s candidature at the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016 was an important marker in multilateral collaboration and indicated Rome’s long-term commitment to supporting India’s role in the export control regimes.

“Italian supportive role in the EU and NSG will help our cause with the EU-India FTA (Free Trade Agreement) and our bid for NSG membership. Italy and India are natural partners and this partnership must be allowed to take free flight,” said former ambassador to Rome Anil Wadhwa, indicating that the support will boost India’s campaign for membership in the global nuclear suppliers club. India’s bid for membership at the NSG has so far been scuttled by repeated opposition from China.

However, sources indicated that apart from the NSG, India is also seeking Italian support at the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) meeting that begins on Monday in Buenos Aires, where India has been pushing for stringent measures against Pakistan on terror funding issues.

A difficult phase

The visit by an Italian PM comes after a decade. The period from 2012 to 2016 marked a difficult bilateral phase as the marines issue, which included two of Rome’s marines became a national debate in Italy.

The case is now with the International Court of Justice, where a round of arbitral proceedings is expected to be completed by 2018.

However, several meetings were held between the two sides as political ties warmed up following the change of government in Delhi in 2014. In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Mr. Gentiloni on the sidelines of G20 summit in Hamburg. Prior to that, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met him on 4 September 2016 when he was the foreign minister.

Apart from the expected issues, Italy and India may also discuss the tension between the U.S. and Iran after President Donald Trump decertified the nuclear deal with Iran, where both Italy and India have strong contacts. As one of the signatories in the nuclear deal, Italy’s role is crucial in this matter.

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