New Delhi: India and Italy on Monday agreed to hit the reset button in their relations, which had been spoiled by an acrimonious row since the killing of two Indian fishermen by a pair of Italian marines off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

The decision came after the two prime ministers—Narendra Modi of India and Paolo Gentiloni of Italy —met in New Delhi. Gentiloni is the first Italian prime minister to visit India in a decade.

Bilateral ties had run aground after two Italian marines, Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, were arrested on charges of killing Indian fishermen, after mistaking them to be pirates. The impact of the arrests spilled over to relations between India and the European Union, India’s largest trading partner and a key source of investment besides India’s membership of groupings like the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Ties started looking up after the two marines were allowed to return home. Latorre was allowed by India’s Supreme Court to return to Italy in September 2014 on health grounds, while Girone was allowed to go back in May 2016. The case is being heard at the International Court of Justice in The Hague—something Italy had sought early on, given its contention that the vessel the two marines were on was in international waters and therefore out of India’s jurisdiction.

With the major impediment in ties set aside, the two countries on Monday decided to focus on renewing and revitalising the relationship, a person familiar with the development said.

“During the discussions between the two sides, the accent was on leaving the past behind and moving ahead, taking bilateral relations forward," the person said. “There was a thinking that enough time had been wasted" over issues of divergence, the person added.

After the talks, Modi in his remarks said that he and Gentiloni had agreed to “take bilateral relations to new heights" and the Italian prime minister’s visit had given the two countries the opportunity to review ties and set new priorities in the relationship. India and Italy were two major economies in the world and there were immense opportunities for mutual cooperation, Modi said.

“We would like to get greater Italian participation in our flagship programmes like Smart Cities and areas like food processing and pharmaceuticals," Modi said.

In his remarks, Gentiloni said “relaunching relations without any obstacles" provided many avenues for cooperation in areas ranging from renewable energy development, agriculture to shipbuilding.

According to a joint statement released at the end of Gentiloni’s visit, Modi and the Italian prime minister emphasized the importance of regular high-level contacts to enhance India-Italy cooperation and mutual understanding.

“Underlining the need for regular high-level contacts, Gentiloni announced the upcoming visits to India by several ministerial-level delegations including that of the ministers of agriculture, culture, economy and finance as well as the Italian vice-minister for economic development," it said.

Italy supported India’s “intensified engagement" with nuclear, missile and dual-use technology and substances-export control regimes like the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) which strengthen global non-proliferation efforts, the statement said.

Against the backdrop of investigations in India over alleged kickbacks being paid by Italian company Finmeccanica’s subsidiary AgustaWestland

to swing a contract for helicopters in its favour, “Gentiloni called for greater experience-sharing between India and Italy in the area of fighting corruption. The president of Italy’s National Anti-Corruption Authority will soon visit India to enhance dialogue and cooperation in this area," the statement said.

The contract for supply of 12 AW-101 helicopters was signed in February 2010. However, the Indian government cancelled it in January 2014 following bribery allegations.

According to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, 62 million euros (about Rs450 crore) was paid in bribes to swing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.

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