Tied together with historical, cultural and economic factors, Italy and India have enjoyed a long-standing association. Even though formal diplomatic relations between Italy and India were established in 1948, the two countries have shared a rich cultural history that dates back to the 1200s when Merchant Marco Polo travelled to India and documented his journey in his book “Travels of Marco Polo”.
After India gained independence, the two countries continued to engage through vibrant cultural exchanges. This is showcased by the fact that Italy currently houses the second largest community of Indians in Europe. Further, to enable Indian students to secure placements in higher educational institutes in both Italy and India, Minerva was established in 2018 in Mumbai by the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce (IICC) to provide international standard educational and vocational training courses. The annual World Week of Italian Cuisine is another initiative promoting the vibrancy of the Italian food in India.
In the last decade, both India and Italy have emphasized on harnessing the synergies of their existing cultural relationship to also strengthen the economic and commercial relations between Italy and India. Diplomatic channels at the highest levels have been used to facilitate interactions to strategise the future roadmap and monitor regular progress on jointly outlined areas of collaboration. In 2017, Paolo Gentiloni, became the first Italian PM to visit India after a gap of ten years. In the subsequent year, as both countries celebrated 70 years of establishing diplomatic relations, the scope of this partnership was both widened and deepened to include a technological partnership along with assuming a larger role in shaping the global world order. In November 2020, the two Prime Ministers charted out a Plan of Action for the next four years, where enhancing economic engagement under the ‘Make in India’ theme, fostering digital partnership to advance Science and Technology cooperation were was also stressed on.
Moreover, underlining the significance of continued cultural relations, the two Heads of State emphasised the importance of promoting people-to-people exchanges and decided to host festivals in their respective countries to celebrate the others culture.
The continued cooperation between the two sides is evidenced by the fact that today, Italy is among the top EU trade partners of India with a bilateral trade (Apr’20 - Feb’21) of $ 7.4 Bn. Italy has also consistently increased its investment outlook towards India contributing significantly to India’s FDI numbers in the last five years. This has been coupled with the Government of India’s three-pronged approach towards improving ease of doing business, reducing the cost of doing business and minimizing the risk of doing business in the country. As a result, India is home to over 140 Italian entities today. Similarly, Indian companies have also steadily increased their footprint in Italy- there are over 42 Indian companies in Italy now. In March this year, Italy became one of the first non-tropical countries to become a signatory to the Indian Solar Alliance (ISA), launched jointly by India and France in 2015 during the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-21) in Paris to further international climate cooperation.
Even during the global COVID pandemic, India and Italy have continued to support each other- with India providing essential medicines to Italy last year and Italy’s support in contributing critical medical equipment such as ventilators and oxygen plants to India during its second wave of the pandemic.
Invest India, as the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation arm of the Indian government, has been diligently playing its role in this partnership by bringing relevant stakeholders together and enabling Italian companies to realize their investment potential as they actively continue to choose India as their preferred investment destination. Last year, Invest India renewed its association with the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) wherein both sides aimed towards further strengthening and assisting bilateral efforts directed at enhancing mutual investments.
Invest India is a key knowledge partner in initiatives such as the "Access India Program" where it supports the Indian Embassy in Rome to attract investments and facilitate India interest for mid-market Italian companies. Invest India is also the facilitating agency under DPIIT to undertake resolution of issues raised under the dedicated India-Italy Fast Track Mechanism (FTM). The India-Italy FTM is a bilateral system to identify and resolve any problems faced by Italian companies and/or investors in India and vice versa.
The program has seen great success in resolving operational and policy issues, ensuring ease of doing business and encouraging Italian companies in their India expansion
The challenge of physical barriers brought by the pandemic encouraged the need for utilization of digital tools in facilitating regular exchange between the two countries. With this spirit, Invest India collaborated with the Italian Embassy to institutionalize outreach and facilitation under the umbrella of the 'Permanent Digital Economic Partnership.' The first session under this platform was held in July 2020 showcasing Italian technology in the food processing sector and since then, both sides have leveraged the virtual medium to facilitate one-on-one interactions with several prominent Italian companies to jointly capitalize on sector specific opportunities in India.
Today, on Italy’s National Day, we reflect on this cherished relationship and resolve to carry forward in the journey of our commercial partnership to even greater heights while attaining mutual prosperity and sustainable growth and development.