India, Italy look to increase defence sector joint ventures

New Delhi: With the conclusion of a four-day visit to the country by the Italian defence minister, Arturo Parisi, on Thursday, joint ventures between the two countries in the defence sector are now set to increase.

On Wednesday, Parisi met Indian defence minister, AK Antony, and discussed "matters of mutual interest and defence cooperation". The two nations are expected to give an already existing memorandum of understanding (MoU), on the transfer of defence equipment, technical assistance and defence industrial cooperation, the shape of a formal agreement soon.

India and Italy are currently involved in a number of defence ventures, such as the development of an oceanographic survey vessel and heavyweight torpedoes for submarines, advanced warships and frigates.

During his four-day visit, Parisi paid a visit to the state owned giant Bharat Heavy Electrical (BHEL) in Bangalore, where 76/62 cannons for Indian navy vessels are being manufactured through a technology transfer agreement with Italian firm Oto Melara. Italy is now keen to expand the venture to include joint production of 127/64mm canons for the navy.

Italy also wants to start joint ventures for the manufacture of maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine helicopters for the Indian Navy. Parisi also toured the Bangalore facilities of Indian aerospace giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) along with those of BHEL.

Italy is already providing design consultancy to the Indian Navy for the first indigenously designed aircraft carrier, also referred to as the Air Defence Ship (ADS), which is expected to be complete by 2012. Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, besides building the ship's propulsion system, is providing the design consultancy.

Parisi's visit to the country follows that of his deputy, junior minister Lorenzo Forceri, last November.