NEW DELHI: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni landed in India on Thursday, as the countries look to improve ties hurt by the 2012 shooting of two fishermen by Italian marines off the southern Indian coast.
India and Italy are celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations this year and the Indian foreign ministry said the countries would look to strengthen security, defence and economic relations.
Meloni, the first Italian prime minister to visit India in five years, will meet her counterpart Narendra Modi during her visit and also address a conference backed by the Indian foreign ministry on Friday.
“Prime Minister Meloni’s visit is expected to further strengthen and deepen the long-standing relationship between India and Italy,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Both sides will … strengthen security and defence cooperation, work towards closer economic ties, enhance opportunity for mobility of talent and give strategic guidance to ongoing collaboration in science & technology.”
India’s Supreme Court said in June 2021 that it had closed all proceedings against two Italian marines over the shooting after Rome paid $1.36 million in compensation.
Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who were arrested in February 2012 over the shooting, said the killings were accidental as they mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired warning shots while on duty on the Italian oil tanker “Enrica Lexie”.
The Indian court had earlier barred the Italian ambassador from leaving the country over the shooting, leading to a diplomatic spat between the countries.
In another blow to ties, India in 2013 cancelled a 560 million euro ($596 million) helicopter deal with AgustaWestland, part of Italian defence group Finmeccanica, following a bribery scandal.
The scandal raised political temperatures in both Italy and India and tarnished the company’s reputation at a time when India had established itself as one the world’s biggest arms buyers.
Italy’s supreme court later acquitted two former executives of the Rome-based group in 2019 in relation to the case.