Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni will come on a state visit to India on October 30, the first such visit in over a decade, the External Affairs Ministry announced on Friday.
Then Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi visited India in February 2007.
“Coming after a gap of more than a decade, the visit is aimed at strengthening the bilateral, political and economic relations between the two countries,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
The visit assumes significance as diplomatic ties between India and Italy had virtually come to a freeze following the February 2012 incident in which two Italian marines, Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, on the ship M.V. Enrica Lexie allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala.
India took the two marines into custody but Italy claimed that the ship was on international waters and the case should be handled by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (Itlos) at The Hague.
India moved the Supreme Court and refused to hand over the two Marines but in September 2014, Latorre was allowed to return to Italy following an apex court order on health grounds.
In May 2016, Girone too was allowed to return and both the marines are now in Italy awaiting an order from the Itlos where the trial against them will be held.
The standoff between New Delhi and Rome also affected the talks for a free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and India.
Diplomatic ties got revived only when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited the Vatican in September last year for the canonisation of Mother Teresa.
Citing figures from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Friday’s External Affairs Ministry statement said that Italy is India’s fifth largest trading partner in the EU with bilateral trade at $8.79 billion in 2016-17.
“India’s exports to Italy are at $4.90 billion, while its imports are at $3.89 billion, resulting in a trade balance of $1 billion in favour of India. In the first four months of fiscal 2017-18, bilateral trade has reached $3.22 billion,” it stated.
According to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Italy is the 13th largest investor in India with cumulative investments worth $ 2.41 billion from April 2000 to June 2017.
The top five sectors in India that attract Italian investments are automotive industry, trading, service sector, industrial machinery and food processing industry.
According to the statement, a 15-member Italian CEO delegation will be accompanying Prime Minister Gentiloni during the visit and an interaction between the CEOs of the two countries was being planned.
There are over 600 Italian companies active in India covering various sectors such as fashion, garments, textile and textile machinery, automotive, automotive components industry, infrastructure, chemicals, energy, confectionary, and insurance.
“A number of Indian companies are also present in Italy mainly in IT, electronics, engineering, automotive, pharmaceuticals and railway sectors,” the statement said.
There is a 180,000-strong Indian community in Italy, the third largest in the EU after Britain and the Netherlands.