A European in China – exclusive interview with the Italian Ambassador to India HE Vicenzo de Luca

In this article we want to broaden the boundaries of our column by involving a very important figure from Italian and European diplomatic institutions abroad. We had the honor of interviewing Ambassador HE Vincenzo de Luca, appointed Ambassador of Italy to India in 2019 and to Nepal in 2021, who also brings with him a bit of China having also held the position of Consul General of Italy in Shanghai. Ambassador De Luca was fundamental to the success of the Italian system and our companies in the countries where he served. With him we took stock of the relations between Italy and India.

Could you briefly describe your career path and the path you took to become an ambassador to India?

«I began my diplomatic career in 1989. It has been a lifelong journey, which has allowed me to meet extraordinary people in every field and has enriched me professionally and personally. I have lived in Sudan, Tunisia, France and China. I have gained experience in the private sector with companies such as ENI and ENEL. I was involved in Expo Milan and, at the Farnesina, in the economic, scientific and cultural promotion of Italy. An adventure which had, as its last stop, India and Nepal.”

How do you evaluate the evolution of the relationship between India and Italy in recent years?

«After the definitive closure of the events linked to the Marine Riflemen, bilateral relations have improved enormously. Just to give an example, in 2021, during the second terrible wave of covid, Italy played a fundamental role in health aid. Then, in March last year, we launched the strategic partnership, on the occasion of Prime Minister Meloni's highly successful visit to India. Now, our collaboration embraces important areas such as defense and space, advanced manufacturing and energy transition, strategic sectors where Italian companies can leverage their traditional willingness to partner and share technological solutions. These are fields in which the two countries will also be able to collaborate within international fora, where India is acquiring an increasingly defined profile. Finally, we have also carried out collaboration protocols in the cultural and mobility fields to facilitate the exchange of students, workers and quality tourism.”

the Italian Ambassador to India HE Vincenzo de Luca(Handle)

Are there any specific impressions about the country that you would like to share with our readers and that you think are important for them to know?

«India and Italy are two cultural superpowers. Like our country, India is rich in history and culture. A huge nation in which different traditions coexist, regarding religion, language, culture, cuisine. The average age is around twenty-seven, a young and dynamic population of one billion four hundred million people who look positively to the future. And, above all, there is a great desire for Italy in India.”

In which sectors do you believe there is potential for improvement in the Indian market in favor of Italian companies?

«Italian exports reached their historic high of 5.2 billion euros in 2023 (+7.6% compared to the previous year), well above the almost four billion pre-covid. 40% of our exports to India are machinery. Most of the Italian companies present here also produce machinery. Italian companies are well aware of the opportunities offered by the country, even those represented by the so-called second and third tier cities, as demonstrated by the important investments made by those who have been present here for years but also by the new arrivals, with the Chamber of Commerce calculating an Italian presence that has grown from 650 companies in 2022 to around 800 today. On the other hand, India has every interest in increasing the share of its GDP in the manufacturing sector compared to agriculture and services, also to create the conditions so that the millions of young Indians who enter the job market every year can find employment. From this point of view, Italian companies can play a leading role in the growth of the Indian economy. Many businesses are expanding both to supply the ever-growing Indian market and to diversify and integrate their supply chains in these complex times. The most relevant sectors in the near future will certainly be advanced manufacturing, construction (and the furniture sector), infrastructure and energy transition.”

Are there specific initiatives where greater collaboration could bring mutual benefits, culture for example?

«We are carrying out a growing collaboration in the sector of protection and enhancement of cultural heritage and the exchange of researchers and students to consolidate our relationships also in the academic and scientific world. We increasingly want to stimulate investments in both directions, both in research and development and in innovative sectors in general. It is no coincidence that we have opened a new Consulate General in Bangalore, the so-called Silicon Valley of India, where much of the country's innovation is concentrated.”

What advice would you give to managers or investors who are considering investing in Asia, particularly India and China?

«India and China are different in many ways. Based on my experience in these two countries there are two pieces of advice that apply to both: 1) look at a medium-long term horizon and not apply a hit and run approach; 2) make use of the institutional support that our country provides thanks to Embassies, Consulates, ICE offices and, on the purely financial side, SACE and Simest”.

By: Attorney Carlo Diego D'Andrea, Vice President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China