Last week, Italy’s Foreign Ministry agreed to send two Italian marines back to India to stand trial for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen while guarding an Italian oil tanker off the coast of India last year, ending a diplomatic dispute that came on the heels of a separate and ongoing scandal over bribery allegations regarding Italian defense company Finmeccanica. In an email interview, Joel Sandhu, an expert on India-European Union relations at the Global Public Policy Institute, explained how these recent problems fit into India’s relations with Italy and the EU more broadly.
WPR: What has been the trajectory of Italy-India ties in recent years?
Joel Sandhu: India and Italy have enjoyed good relations for decades. Today, Italy is among India’s top five trading partners within the EU, and the Indian community in Italy is the second-largest community of Indians in Europe, after the U.K. The fact that the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, widow of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, leads the ruling Congress Party is not insignificant for India-Italy relations. However, bilateral relations recently hit a low point over the recent diplomatic row in connection with two Italian marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen and the corruption allegations surrounding the Finmeccanica scandal.