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India and Italy look afresh at new military partnership in strategic waters of Indian Ocean

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto in Rome (Image courtesy: Ministro della Difesa, Italy)

Deeply involved in European-led maritime missions in the Indian Ocean and beyond, Italy reckons that expanding defence ties with India are of high strategic value, especially considering the changed geopolitical scenario in and around Africa.

“Cooperation between the two countries is also strategic with regard to the African continent: Africa will be fundamental in the next fifty years and even longer,” the Italian Defence Ministry stated after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s meeting with his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto in Rome on Monday.

With instability surrounding the Middle East currently in light of the attacks that occurred in Israel, both Defence Ministers also held discussions on the Lebanon Mission – UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) where the Indian and Italian Armed Forces are engaged jointly.

The government led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni believes that Italy and India are united by “a sense of respect” towards other countries in the international community.

As the both countries renewed their agreement for cooperation in the defence sector that had expired in 2019, Crosetto pointed out that the history of nations and men has been, and continues to be, changed by decisions that materialise rapidly.

“At a time when global stability requires joint efforts, it is essential to invest in improving relations with non-NATO countries in order to address global problems and emerging challenges. The geographical distance between the Mediterranean and the Indo-Pacific is smaller than one might imagine and, instead, the interconnection between the two regions is strong,” said the Italian Defence Minister.

Focusing on the opportunities in defence industrial cooperation, Singh suggested fostering the interaction of the Indian start-ups with the Italian defence companies and possibilities of joint development.

He also invited the Italian Armed Forces to participate in a joint exercise with logistical support in India.

The renewal of the agreement is also important in order to establish a G2G (government to government) relationship in areas of mutual interest, to improve the exchange of personnel, technologies for education, training and exercises.

Rome has been working on strengthening its defence and deterrence policy in all geographies post Ukrainian crisis, including from the Persian Gulf westwards through the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea.

Italy is also actively engaged in European Union programmes aimed to enhance the regional maritime security architecture, especially in the north western Indian Ocean.

Its multipurpose off-shore patrol vessel ‘Morosini’ has just concluded a naval campaign in the strategic sector, where it carried out training activities with the main countries in the area. In August, Italian Air Force units and personnel were also engaged in the Indo-Pacific area, in joint training activities with the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF).