India invites Italy to invest in defence manufacturing

India invites Italy to invest in defence manufacturing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte before a meeting at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

India on Tuesday asked Italy to invest in defence manufacturing in India, four years after the Narendra Modi government blacklisted Italian arms major Finmeccanica (now known as Leonardo) in the VVIP chopper scam.

“India invited Italian defence equipment manufacturing companies to invest in India under the 'Make in India' initiative and to collaborate with Indian companies for design and construction of defence equipment. Both sides recognised the need to broad base defence ties and make them enduring and mutually beneficial,” says the joint statements issued after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte.

On a working visit, Conte discussed bilateral ties with Modi a fortnight after the 9th meeting of the India-Italy Military Cooperation Group in Rome (11-12 October 2018) which saw the two sides agreeing to the bilateral cooperation plan for the year 2019.

The renewed push for defence manufacturing came after Italian judiciary completed the trial against former executives of AgustaWestland — a subsidiary of Finmeccanica — and acquitted them. The case, on the basis of a CBI investigation, is still to be concluded.

Within a month of coming to the power, Modi government issued orders to blacklist Agusta Westland International Limited, UK; its parent company Finmeccanica, Italy and IDS Tunisia, which were involved in the controversial deal.

The controversial contract to buy 12 VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland was terminated in January 2014. While the blacklisting process was initiated in December 2013, the order was issued by the Modi government.

The blacklisting hit hard India's defence preparedness as several prospective contracts were cancelled because of the vendor's link to Finmeccanica. The Navy was the worst sufferer as it didn't get the Black Shark torpedoes for its Scorpene class submarines and procurement of radars and sensors for its warships was stopped.

In an interview on the eve of his arrival Conte said, “Leonardo has joined the United Nations Global Compact, which is the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. Leonardo's participation in the UN global compact means that its strategies and operations align with universal principles of labour rights, environment and anti-corruption.”

Modi and Conte also addressed the valedictory session of the two-day technology summit where scientists from both countries not only agreed to take their bilateral collaboration forward but also develop products through a joint development mechanism.

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