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BARI (ITALY): Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni have reviewed the progress of the bilateral strategic partnership and agreed to strengthen cooperation in global fora and multilateral initiatives, including the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

The two leaders met on Friday towards the end of Prime Minister Modi’s day-long visit to Apulia, southern Italy, during which he thanked the Italian Prime Minister for the invitation to attend the G7 Summit.

A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) readout of the meeting said the leaders committed to fulfil their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and also discussed the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

“Both leaders look forward to joint activities to be implemented under the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative framework to fulfil their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Ministry of External Affairs said, amidst China’s aggressive actions in the region.

They also discussed important regional and global issues and agreed to strengthen cooperation in global fora and multilateral initiatives, including the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, it said.

Billed as a path-breaking initiative, the IMEC envisages a vast road, railroad and shipping network among Saudi Arabia, India, the United States and Europe to ensure integration among Asia, the Middle East and the West.

The IMEC is also seen as an initiative by like-minded nations to gain strategic influence in the face of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has faced increasing criticism over lack of transparency and disregard for sovereignty of the nations.

The BRI is a mega connectivity project that connects China with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.

The IMEC initiative was firmed up on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Delhi last year.

“The two leaders noted with satisfaction the regular higher political dialogue and reviewed the progress of the India-Italy Strategic Partnership. While expressing happiness at growing trade and economic collaboration, they called for expanding commercial ties in clean energy, manufacturing, Space, S&T (science and tech), telecom, AI and critical minerals to build resilient supply chains. In this context, they welcomed the recent signing of a MoU on Industrial Property Rights (IPR) which provides a framework for cooperation on patents, designs and trademarks,” it said.

The MEA said the two sides discussed bilateral defence and security cooperation and hoped to further enhance the defence-industrial collaboration. The leaders welcomed the forthcoming visit of the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour and training ship ITS Vespucci to India later this year.

Prime Minister Modi is said to have thanked the Italian government for recognising the Indian Army’s contribution to the Italian campaign during World War II and informed that India will be upgrading the Yashwant Ghadge Memorial at Montone in Italy.

The MEA statement added: “Taking note of the coordination under the ‘Global Biofuels Alliance’, the leaders welcomed the signing of the Letter of Intent for Cooperation in Energy Transition which will boost bilateral cooperation in clean and green energy. They expressed happiness at the new Executive Programme of Cooperation for 2025-27 to promote joint research and development in Science & Technology.

“The two countries enjoy strong people-to-people connect propelled by longstanding Indological studies tradition in Italy, which will be further strengthened with the establishment of the first ICCR chair on India studies at the University of Milan. The two Leaders called for an early implementation of the Migration and Mobility Agreement, which would facilitate mobility of professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workers, students, and researchers.”

Earlier on Friday, Meloni welcomed the Prime Minister along with leaders of Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, India, Jordan, Kenya, Mauritania, Tunisia, Turkiye, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to address the Outreach session on Artificial Intelligence, Energy, Africa and the Mediterranean, along with Pope Francis.

The G7 Summit, to be formally concluded on Saturday, was hosted under the presidency of Italy and attended by the Group of Seven Industrialised nations – the US, UK, Japan, Canada, Germany and France, and the European Union.

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