The alleged origin of Coronavirus in China and massive casualties resulting from the virus in Italy have compelled Rome to rethink its engagement with China and look more aggressively to develop relations with India, the world’s fifth largest economy.

Italy’s Ambassador to India Vincenzo de Luca clearly gave this indication at an international webinar when he pitched for enhanced defence partnership with India while calling for rebalancing relations between Europe and China which came under strain after the outbreak of the pandemic.

“Italy has raised the issue of rebalancing trade relations between Europe and China. This is an issue for the European Union. I have now seen more awareness in European Union vis-a-vis this question of the trade relation between China and Europe,” said the Italian envoy. “We have to rebalance the relations with China in terms of trade and investment between,” he added.

Compared to China, which arouses anxieties in different European capitals, the Italian envoy sought enhanced partnership with India in connectivity projects in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We also should have a shared vision with India on the question of connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region, and this vision should be based on a level-playing field, transparency, and rules-based,” Luca said.

Underlining Italy’s growing comfort level with India, the Italian ambassador said: “Europe can develop dual technologies with India, not with China, because with China, we have a sanction system on all the military industry. That’s why we insist on a major role of Italy in the defence industry sector here in India.”

Besides Ambassador Luca, the webinar, organised by India Writes Network and India and the World magazine, was attended by Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (Europe West) in the Ministry of External Affairs; Anil Wadhwa, a former Ambassador of India to Italy, Thailand, Poland, and Oman; Stefania Benaglia, an expert on EU foreign and security policy; and Stefano Pelle, a former CEO of Ferrero India.

Mapping the road ahead, Chakravorty, underlined that India will be intensifying cooperation with Italy in several areas, including “diversification of supply chains” and pitched for attracting Italian companies to invest in India.

“What we see is a new energy and synergy in bilateral relations. Above all, the India Growth story and Italy’s economic ambitions are intertwining, opening new avenues for cooperation between the two countries,” said Manish Chand, a foreign policy analyst and Editor-in-Chief of India and the World magazine.