About 600 large Italian companies are active in India, while some 4,000 Indian students and 250,000 workers, mainly in the agricultural sector, are in Italy Credit: Twitter/MEAIndia

India and Italy are set to sign about a dozen agreements in areas ranging from trade and investment to infrastructure when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte hold a virtual summit on Friday.

The meeting, the latest in a string of virtual engagements by Modi after his successful summits with Australia and the European Union (EU), is part of New Delhi’s enhanced focus on Europe against the backdrop of a global rebalancing in the post-Covid-19 scenario. Leading EU players, such as Germany and France, have also signalled a greater interest in the Indo-Pacific region.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that around a dozen agreements and MoUs covering areas such as trade, investment, infrastructure, environment, fisheries, media and filmmaking, are expected to be signed at the summit.

The two sides will explore the possibility of increasing Italian investments in India and enhancing defence cooperation and manufacturing under the Make in India initiative, sources said.

Both countries are keen to firmly put behind the 2012 killing of two Indian crew members of a fishing boat off the coast of Kerala by Italian marines guarding an oil tanker Enrica Lexie, an incident that took bilateral ties to an all-time low.

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India sees Italy, the third-largest EU economy after Brexit with robust manufacturing, technological and design capabilities, as an important partner for the Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiatives.

From January, India will also join the G20 troika along with Italy and Saudi Arabia. India and Italy will be part of the troika for 2021 and 2022 when New Delhi will take over as the G20 chair.

Italy is currently India’s fifth-largest trading partner in the EU, and bilateral trade was worth 9.52 billion Euros in 2019. India, however, ranks 16th as country of origin for Italian imports, and experts believe there is potential for considerable growth.

About 600 large Italian companies are active in India, while some 4,000 Indian students and 250,000 workers, mainly in the agricultural sector, are currently residing in Italy.

Italy has traditionally been supportive towards India at multilateral forums, and the two countries are currently working towards a roadmap for a more substantive engagement, including a migration mobility partnership agreement. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the two countries closer. As many as 4,309 Indians were repatriated from Italy, while 1,495 Italians were repatriated from India. India gifted 40,000 surgical masks, 100,000 hand gloves, 20,000 headcovers and 20,000 shoe covers to Italy in March 2020, besides assisting the travel of 44 Italian adoptive parents to the country.

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