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Modi-Draghi partnership bloomed silently in 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Italy PM Mario Draghi in Rome this October (Image courtesy: Twitter/@NarendraModi)

Italy has spent the last decade cosying up to China, but Rome has changed under its Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and so did its relations with India.

Vas Shenoy, writing in Decode 39, which gives geopolitical insights from Italy wrote that Mario Draghi has sown the seeds for Italian and EU engagement in the creation and development of a new, expanded Indo-Mediterranean. He has managed, in a short time to bridge a chasm with India that took over a decade to create while starting to limit Italy's engagement with China and Turkey.

The Modi-Draghi partnership has bloomed silently since Draghi took the reins in Italy. Modi was one of the four leaders that Draghi had bilateral meetings with during the heads of the state G20 meeting in Rome in October and who fully supported the Italian led G20 meeting on Afghanistan.

Sources referred to the fact that not only did the bilateral meeting over-run its estimated time slot, but it was very direct and congenial, reported Decode 39.

The importance PM Modi gave to his visit to Italy, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 12 years, was obvious from the team that travelled with him.

Senior cabinet members who accompanied him included the Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Textiles and the Indian Sherpa for G20 Piyush Goyal, apart from senior diplomats.

One of the first results of the Draghi-Modi meeting was the announcement that Leonardo SpA, Italy's defence company, was taken off the blacklist by the Indian Ministry of Defence after almost a decade, said Shenoy.

While this will mean India can access Leonardo's technology, it also creates a huge impetus and business for Leonardo in India.

More importantly Narendra Modi's "Make in India", is a boon for Italian companies who are at the brink of economic disaster with cheap "Made in China" competition.

India provides a fertile young customer base for Italian technology and products while not encouraging export-oriented cheap manufacturing.

Over 60 per cent of India's economy is for internal consumption, so any manufacturing in India will only boost the Italian manufacturing of products and help Italian companies thrive in Italy as well, said Shenoy.

India is also giving USD 10 billion boosts to semiconductor companies that will set up manufacturing in India so that it is not dependent on China. In Draghi's vision, India could probably supplement its own efforts at chip manufacturing in Italy and India could be a strategic partner in creating supply chain resilience in the consumer electronics and automobiles markets, where India provides that critical mass for dropping the unit cost of semiconductors, reported Decode 39.

Finally, with the arrival of EU funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan – while there is a huge risk that Chinese companies will try and use such funds to develop and own Italian infrastructure – India offers a new base of companies who are looking at global expansion without any role of the Indian state.

Italy was one of the first G7 countries to sign the memorandum of understanding for the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Other embarrassments included a huge reliance on Turkish intelligence to protect Italian assets in Libya and the role of Turkey in liberating an Italian aid worker held captive in Somalia, both former Italian colonies, reported Decode 39.

Draghi's arrival has changed a lot in Italy's perspective. The Italian Parliament has woken up to the challenges of China's economic and military aggression, human rights abuse in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and otherwise, the use of the Confucius institutes in Italian universities to curry favour with the academia among others.

His influence in Europe and the change of guard in Germany creates a possibility that Europe, unitedly, will do "whatever it takes" to defend Europe and the global democratic order against Chinese aggression, said Shenoy.

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