NEW DELHI (AP) — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni urged India on Thursday to play a central role in facilitating negotiations to end Russia's war against Ukraine.
India, with the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 industrialized and developing countries, could represent the needs of less-developed nations in such a process, Meloni said in a statement following talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
She condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and underscored its adverse impact on developing countries in terms of food and energy security.
"India may play a central role in facilitating a negotiating process for cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine, Meloni said.
Modi reiterated his cautious stand by reaffirming that peace can be achieved only through diplomacy and dialogue, saying, “India is ready to support a peace initiative in that direction.”
So far, India has refrained from directly criticizing Russia's invasion. The two have been allies since the Cold War era, and New Delhi depends on Moscow for nearly 60% of its defense equipment. India has increasingly scooped up Russian oil since the invasion a year ago, initially facing scrutiny from the U.S. and other allies over its growing purchases. That pressure has since waned. India has continued to abstain from voting in U.N. resolutions that condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Meloni said the Russian attack was not simply an act of war because it also threatened the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation. "We can’t sit idly in the face of this provocation to the heart of the U.N. charter which threatens to undermine civility across the globe,” she said in a speech at an Indian policy research institute.
She also underlined the importance of the Indo-Pacific region and said it has become a virtual center of gravity for the global economy. Forty percent of foreign trade passes through the South China Sea.
"Today shipping makes up 90% of all international trade, and freedom of navigation is crucial for our economies. What happens in the Indo-Pacific has direct repercussions in Europe," she said.
Meloni, who became Italy's prime minister last October, said trade between India and Italy has doubled in two years.
``Bilateral trade volumes between India and Italy are at an all-time high. Last year, I think we clocked about $15 billion dollars," India's Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters.
Both sides called for expanding cooperation in defense, green energy, digital transition, cybersecurity and space.
Indian exports to Italy include ready-made garments, leather, iron ore, motor vehicles, textiles, chemicals, gems and jewelry. India imports Italian machinery, machine tools, metallurgical products and engineering items. Around 140 large Italian companies are active in India.
Meloni conveyed to Modi her government’s desire to reboot defense ties with India. Modi said there were ample opportunities in defense manufacturing and co-production.
He said the two countries will start joint military exercises and training courses for military personnel.
Their military ties were damaged in 2014 after India canceled a $670 million contract for 12 helicopters after Italian defense giant Finmeccanica was accused of bribing Indian contacts to secure the deal.
India had received three helicopters and stopped the delivery of the remaining nine AW1010 helicopters.
India’s decision to prosecute two Italian marines in the shooting deaths of two Indian fishermen in 2012 sparked a bitter row between the two nations. India’s Supreme Court in 2021 closed criminal proceedings against the Italian marines after Italy paid $1.3 million in damages, ending the long-simmering case.
This story has been corrected to say that India-Italy trade is worth about $15 billion, according to India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.