New Delhi: Signalling a rapprochement in India-Italy ties that had soured over the prolonged detention in India of two Italian marines for their role in the killing of two Indian fisherman in 2012, Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will be visiting Rome in September.
According to the official version of events, Swaraj will be leading the Indian delegation at the canonisation ceremony of Mother Teresa, Nobel peace laureate and founder of the Missionaries of Charity, at the Vatican in early September. Canonisation is process by which the church declares a dead person a saint.
The composition of the delegation is yet to be finalised, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup told reporters.
Given that Swaraj will be travelling to Rome, a meeting with Italian officials cannot be ruled out, though Swarup did not refer to any official meetings in Rome.
Ties between India and Italy soured after India detained Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre for shooting two Indian fishermen who they thought were pirates attacking the ship they were posted on.
India said the incident had taken place in Indian territorial waters and therefore the two marines would have to be tried under Indian law. This was contested by Italy.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated with Italy opposing India’s admission to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an elite group that sets the rules for acquisition of missiles by countries and put pressure on the European Union to go slow over confirming a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015.
Tensions, however, eased after both Italian marines were allowed to return to Italy, as per the verdict of an international arbitration court in the Hague earlier this year.
Swaraj’s visit would be the highest level trip to Italy following the Hague arbitration court’s verdict.