New Delhi–Relations between India and Italy are set on the path to recovery, after strains that developed over the past years, with the Joint Economic Commission slated to meet in Rome in May after a gap of eight years, it was announced here on Thursday.

Visiting Italian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Ivan Scalfarotto said at the Italy-India Business Forum here that Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be leading a delegation for the joint commission meeting scheduled to be held in the middle of May.

Scalfarotto is currently in India at the head of a 140-member delegation, that includes representatives of 60 Italian companies, in a bid to boost bilateral trade and investment relations.

Bilateral relations were affected following the death of two Kerala fishermen at the hands of two Italian marines in the Enrica Lexie case in 2012.

“This India-Italy Business Forum is the official launch of a new partnership between both countries and involves the sharing of knowledge and experience,” Italian Ambassador Lorenzo Angeloni said addressing the packed venue.

Noting that some Italian companies like Fiat and Ferrero Rocher are household names in India, Additional Secretary Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Atul Chaturvedi said the government had asked India’s ambassador in Italy to start an outreach programme to attract small and medium industry to India, on the lines of a similar programme started in Germany.

“This is the first Italian business delegation to India since 2011 and signals the revitalisation of our relationship after its slowing down over the past some years,” Licia Mattioli, Vice President of the Italian Industry Association Confindustria, said.

“Despite the political and bilateral uncertainties of the last few years, Italian companies in India played a central role in keeping our cooperation going,” she said.

Bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to around $7.3 billion. There are over 600 Italian companies present in India.

Italian foreign direct investment in India amounts to around 5 billion euros.

Between Mumbai and Delhi, around 900 business-to-business meetings are planned during the ongoing bilateral business forum towards increasing collaborations.

Italy is offering collaborations in areas of its expertise including food processing, infrastructure, heavy machinery, renewable energy, advanced technology, as well as information and communication technology.

Talking to reporters on the Italian marines’ case, Scalfarotto said it is now with the International Court under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and relations between the two governments are back on track, as signalled by the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome last year.

Regarding a free trade agreement, he said negotiations were on between the European Union and India and Italy is encouraging the EU to expedite the signing of an FTA. (IANS)