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Italian envoy in India, HE Vincenzo de Luca, says the two nations worked together extensively since Covid-19 outbreak

After joining as Italian Ambassador, HE Vincenzo de Luca desires to give a renewed momentum to Indo-Italian bilateral relations and take it to another level. He is an astute diplomat and known as an outstanding protagonist of Italian diplomacy inside the External Affairs Ministry and has a successful stint as Director General for the Promotion of Italy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. According to him, despite the current crisis, India is a worldwide major player in terms of economic development. In the wake of the recently concluded virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart, he spoke to Dr Pratapaditya Mishra, visiting professor in MBA, Utkal University, on various issues. Excerpts:

Italian Ambassador HE Vincenzo de Luca

Q: How do you visualise the recently concluded virtual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte?

A: This virtual summit between Prime Minister Conte and Prime Minister Modi has come at the right time and is regarded as a momentous milestone in the bilateral relations between the two countries. The two prime ministers had not only made a thorough exchange on bilateral issues, but also shared their concerns over different regional and global matters. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation against common global challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic. Both sides have agreed to coordinate closely at the multilateral level, especially for G-20. While Italy will assume the presidency of G-20 in 2021, it will be followed by India in 2022. But together, India and Italy will be part of the G-20 Troika from December 2020.

The results of the meeting have been summarized in the Joint Declaration and Plan of Action, which contains the priority areas and strategic goals on which the bilateral partnership will be based upon for the period 2020-2025. We have defined our working program for the next five years and I strongly believe this is the most important achievement.

Q: How do you see the growth of Italian exports to India?

A: Italian exports to India increased by 22.28% in the 2016-2019 period. Despite the turnaround in 2020 due to the pandemic, the outlook remains positive in the long term. The domestic market is rapidly expanding, driven by the new consumption habits of a young and dynamic population.

Q; What are the main areas of collaboration between Italy and India?

A: The five-year Bilateral Economic Partnership between the two countries is focused on food, health, infrastructure (especially rail), green economy in various forms, advanced manufacturing and life-style. Surely, the agriculture-related industry is essential for India. Italy has possessed technological expertise in the field of agricultural machinery, mechanization, packaging and the cold-storage and logistics chain. These are essential segments for India which, although ranking as the world’s second largest producer of food, have a lot to do in the fields of food processing and storage and also in reducing food waste along the supply chain. In 2019, Italy was the third largest exporter to India of food processing machinery, with Italian technologies accounting for 10.39% of total Indian imports in this sector.

Italy will like to partner with a growing economy, i.e. India. We will ensure promotion of two-way investment in areas like digital technology and e-governance, green and circular economy, energy transition, health and pharmaceuticals, food processing, infrastructure and advanced manufacturing, given the high degree of complementarities between the two economies. We will surely facilitate Italian investments in India, increasing defence cooperation and promoting manufacturing under “Make in India”.

Q: How do you plan to promote Italy in India?

A: A steady synergy of integrated promotion actions is needed with the aim of strengthening the image of Italy, not only as a manufacturer of products of exceptional quality, technology and aesthetics, but also plays as a distinctive cultural universe of values. This is expressed in the liveliness of its creative industry. “The bilateral partnership is based on economy, culture and innovation. In Italy, India is listed as a priority destination for economic relationships. The Italian Embassy to Delhi has organised several highly appreciated informative webinars for the Italian business community interested to learn more about India, in collaboration with Italy’s state-owned surety and credit insurance provider Sace-Simest.

Q: What is your view on improving international business relationships?

A: Digital tools are fundamentally important, all the more now due to the worldwide Covid-19 emergency. A particular focus is on e-commerce, since this sector is flourishing both in India and Italy. Specifically, the Indian market numbers already 629 million mobile internet users and 140 million online customers, and is expected to be worth over 100 billion dollars by 2022. In this perspective, a project by ICE (Italy’s State Agency for support to exports and business internationalization) has started to position Italian SMEs on different e-commerce platforms and we look forward to very fruitful collaboration with India in this sector as well.

Q: How have both India and Italy collaborated on the corona pandemic crisis?

A: Italy and India have worked together extensively since the outbreak of Covid-19. Among other initiatives, we have co-organised two webinars aimed at exchanging experiences and exploring areas of cooperation for future projects, especially in the field of drug repurposing and immunization.

Q: How do you see the success of this relationship post-Covid-19?

A: We are aware that a sustainable economic recovery post-Covid-19 will depend on the activation of solid and reliable global supply chains and enhanced connectivity. In this framework, we are confident on working with our Indian partners for a reinforced trade system that encourages equitable and free trade.

Q: Does Italy continue as a destination for Indian tourists?

A: Indian flows of tourists to Italy have grown considerably in recent years. In 2019, the Italian Consulates in India issued about 140,000 tourist visas, with an increase of 10% compared to 2018.

There is a strong interest by the Indian public in Italy, thanks also to the active communication action developed by the Embassy.