India’s emergence on the international stage has led to a noteworthy intensification of political relations both at European level as well as bilaterally.
Regular summits have been held since 2000 and the EU has included among its goals in relations with India the creation of a strategic partnership along with some ambitious objectives on the level of economic, scientific and cultural relations.
Increased operational cooperation with New Delhi are aimed, in particular, at contributing, on the basis of shared democratic values, to peace and stability in both the Asian context as well as in the global context with regard to many of the current international and regional themes in which Italy is actively engaged.
While Italy is playing a front line role in crucial crisis areas such as Lebanon and Afghanistan, India can, in turn, offer an increasingly decisive contribution in others of our areas of growing interest such as the stability of Southern and Central Asia, which Italy is observing with particular attention both as regards the clear link with the Afghani scenario and with others such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and in India-Pakistani relations, in which we can make a considerable contribution.
In particular, as regards the stabilisation and development of Afghanistan and the region of Central Asia, India is one of Italy’s main interlocutors within the framework of regional cooperation.
Indeed, it is clear that in the absence of peace and stability Afghanistan and the other Central Asian States will not be capable of establishing an effective trade and infrastructure network that would include the eventual construction of trans-regional gas pipelines or road systems toward the south (Pakistan and India). In the absence of controls, Afghani drug production and trafficking will continue to flourish and to have a devastating effect on the security and economy of the entire region.
These themes therefore require an active and coordinated contribution of all the States of the region and it is without a doubt that strengthening our cooperation with India, both at EU level as well as bilaterally, will be one of the decisive factors in the pursuance of this objective, which, moreover, must be realised in the broader regional context and parallel to the definitive normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan.
Sotto quest’ ultimo punto di vista gli attentati di Mumbai del novembre 2008 hanno rappresentato un gravissimo atto di destabilizzazione regionale, mirato proprio a provocare nuove tensioni tra India e Pakistan. E’ pertanto assai importante che i due Governi in questione diano in questo momento prova della misura e prudenza, necessarie a non interrompere il “dialogo composito” in corso tra i due Paesi dal 2004.
While at the level of political consultations Secretary of State Gianni Vernetti made a visit to India in July 2006, reciprocated in November by Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anand Sharma’s visit to Rome, major economic importance was attributed to the joint Commission of November 2006 co-chaired by Italian Minister for International Trade Bonino and her Indian counterpart Kamal Nath, who was accompanied for the occasion by a highly qualified business delegation.
Prime Minister Prodi’s visit to India in February 2007 also contributed to achieving a leap in quality in all sector relations between Rome and New Delhi. The visit touched on all the major Indian cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai) and was unprecedented in its success as a result of the broad range and high quality of its participants (Ministers Bonino, Di Pietro, Bindi, Secretary of State Agostini and President of the Confindustria Montezemolo, leading a Confindustria-ICE-ABI delegation of over 400 business persons). The mission sent a strong signal regarding Italy’s desire to locate India at the centre of its Asian policy, becoming India’s crossroads to Europe by strengthening economic-trade relations between the two nations and, at the same time, placing the Italian infrastructure network at the service of Indian exports as a quicker and more economically competitive alternative to the ports of Northern Europe.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs Massimo D’Alema visited India from 10 to 12 October 2007. On that occasion various political themes were discussed, both bilateral ones as well as those concerning regional stability, thus confirming the good relations between the two countries and the desire to expand trade relations.
Our productive system’s pro-active approach to the Asian markets over recent years is, moreover, confirmation that the widespread perception of the Asian continent as a potential threat to our economies is gradually giving way to a deeper consideration of the major opportunities being offered by Asia.
From this point of view the ascent of the Indian middle class offers some particularly attractive prospects in the sectors of tourism, fashion, design and luxury products. Our small and medium-sized enterprises will thus have the opportunity to strengthen a presence that is already quite active in some traditional sectors of the Made in Italy label (textiles, gold jewellery, machine tools, wood, etc).
New opportunities are also opening up at the level of scientific and university cooperation, and the intensification of trade relations between the two nations has already been clearly reflected in the steady upward trends recorded over recent years (on the order of 8 billion euro in the first half of 2007, up from the 2.4 billion of the same period in 2006). Forecasts for 2007 are for 6 billion euro, compared with the 5 billion of 2006, 3.8 of 2005, 3.3 of 2004 and 2.7 of 2003.
Despite a trade deficit that rose by 800 million euro as a result of a sharp increase in our imports, encouraging signs are coming from our exports (+36.3% in the first half of 2007), increases in business travel, the greater presence of our financial system (banks and insurance) and a more general business upswing thanks to a series of agreements signed or on their way to being signed by major industrial groups.
Direct Foreign Investments (DFI) in India in 2006 amounted to 238 million dollars (compared with 191 million in 2005), but are still below potential and less than our EU partners (Italy lines up behind the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany); nevertheless, if the current growth trend continues it is foreseeable that the gap could be closed within a very few years.
As for Indian investments in Italy, which were minimal up to a short time ago, some significant signs of a possible trend reversal (Gruppo Videocon and Gruppo Reliance) have emerged that, if confirmed, will lead Indian investments in our country to levels comparable to those in other European countries.