Italy insulted India by not sending marines, says Swamy


IANS

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New Delhi: 3:05 pm: Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, who filed a plea against the Italian ambassador in the Supreme Court, said, "The court has directed that the ambassador cannot leave the country. It sends a strong message becasue the confidence of the people was shaken after they insulted us by keeping the marines there."

1:46 pm: The Bharatiya Janata Party asked the government as to what actions it was planning against Italy in the marines row. "We are waiting for severe ’consequences’ that PM promised. A private citizen has now ensured that justice is done. The person has got a notice against the Italian ambassador," BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

1:13 pm: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said, "We will comply with the Supreme Court order restraining

12:26 pm: Sources in the Italian government say that the marines do not face any charges in India and the charges were quashed by the Kerala High Court. Sources say that the Supreme court had left open the option for Italy to challenge jurisdiction in a special court. Sources add that India has ignored the apex court’s advice to explore a settlement with Italy.

11:20 am: The court has sought an explanation from the ambassador on Italian government’s decision of going back on its assurance to send back the marines to face trial in India. However, it is not essential for Mancini to appear before court personally.

But what may be pointed out is that the Supreme Court’s deadline to the Italian marines to return is March 22 and any action against the ambassador can be taken only after they fail to return by that date.

11:16 am: The court has asked Mancini to respond to the notice by March 18. The next date of hearing in the case against the Italian ambassador is March 19.

11:11 am: The Supreme Court’s notice to Mancini came after Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy filed a plea seeking action against the Italian ambassador for contempt of court.

11:07 am: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "A-G will explain our position in court and the developments that have taken place. The feelings of our people will be kept foremost. What PM has said is important. We leave it to the court to pronounce whether we are on sound legal footing."

11:00 am: The Supreme Court has issued a notice to Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini restraining him from leaving India. The apex court’s notice is based on the Attorney General’s response.

10:30 am: Sources say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is consulting Law Minister Ashwani Kumar over India’s options in the Italian marines’ case. Source say senior ministers are of the opinion that this is more a legal fight than a diplomatic stand off as claimed by the Italians. Sources say the government is considering approaching the international court of justice, but no decision has been finalised.

10:08 am: A day after sending out a stern warning to Italy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday and reports indicate that the issue of the Italian marines was being discussed. This could include what punitive actions need to be taken in the stand off with Italy.

Italy has warned India to go to court in the case. Italy has insisted it is on solid legal ground in seeking international arbitration in the case. Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told reporters in Israel, "We have juridically solid reasons to proceed in the direction of international arbitration The Indian government is amply apprised of all it needs to know about our reasons, as do many of our partners."

Meanwhile, there are reports of differences within the government over Italian ambassador to India Daniele Mancini’s diplomatic immunity. While the Home Ministry has asked the External Affairs Ministry to ensure the ambassador is not able to invoke his diplomatic immunity, the MEA has cited the Vienna convention to say doing so would affect Indian diplomats abroad.

Sources had earlier indicated that the Italian Ambassador may be asked to leave. The Italian ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini, has, however, said that he will not leave India until he is made persona non grata, meaning an unwelcome person, over the Italian marines row.

"I will not leave this country till a competent authority makes me persona non grata.. I am more than glad to live in this country for years to come," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function when asked whether he was afraid that he may be asked to leave the country.

Italy has insisted it is on solid legal ground in seeking international arbitration in the case. Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told reporters in Israel, "We have juridically solid reasons to proceed in the direction of international arbitration The Indian government is amply apprised of all it needs to know about our reasons, as do many of our partners."

There was ruckus in Parliament over the issue on Wednesday with the BJP claiming collusion between New Delhi and Rome. Following this, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did speak tough, warning Italy of grave consequences if the marines were not sent back for trial in the Indian fishermen killings case. "They have violated every rule of diplomatic discourse and call into question solemn commitments given by an accredited representative of a government," Singh said in the Lok Sabha which witnessed uproar during Question Hour as well as Zero Hour over the issue.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also met the Prime Minister and discussed the issue on Wednesday. After the meeting Chandy said the marines will have to come back to India to face trial in the Kerala fishermen murder case.

The Supreme Court had given them permission to stay out of the country only till March 22. The two marines are facing trial for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, mistaking them for pirates.

 Is Italy taking ’advantage’ of India’s decency?

Italy is not the first country to have taken advantage of the Indian government’s "decency" in refusing to return its accused men for trial, and the plea to allow the two marines to fly back to Rome to vote could have been a ploy being hatched for some time, say two former envoys to that country.

Italy has refused to send back its marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, to India to face trial for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year, mistaking them to be pirates.

This is not the first case. In 1998, two French nationals had been arrested off the Kerala coast on suspicion of ocean survey espionage. The two men were put on trial and were allowed to go back to visit their homes after the French government gave an undertaking in court that they would return.

"They never returned... Take the case of Kim Davy (the Purulia arms drop case prime accused from Denmark)," said former diplomat Rajiv Dogra, who retired as the country’s ambassador to Italy.

"They (countries) are taking advantage of the decency of the Indian government," Dogra told IANS.

"Last year, a US warship killed an Indian off the coast of Dubai and injured two-three Indians seriously. Nothing happened in the case," he reminded.

"It is for India to act strongly for only then they will stop taking advantage," said he.
He suggested two options that India could pursue. "India could declare them (marines) offenders and could scale down diplomatic contact with Italy… It is for the government of India to decide."

According to another former envoy K.P. Fabian, it was wrong of Italy to go back on its personal word to India and the Supreme Court that the marines would be sent back.
He said with Rome set to have a new government in the next few days the current government probably wanted to bring the affair "to a conclusion before it leaves office".
He also suggested that the Italian government could have made up its mind not to return the two marines when it filed a plea in the Supreme Court to allow them to fly back to Rome to vote in the elections.

"It seems they had made up their minds to do it..There is no real reason to ask India for permission to allow them to be taken to Italy for voting," Fabian told IANS.b "The request indicates planning was going on for some time," added Fabian.

He said it was difficult to say what the implications of the diplomatic stand off would be. "India has responded in fairly strong terms… Lets see what Italy has to say."
He said India might have to wait for a new government to come in Rome to get a "real response" to the situation.

"And it will be difficult for the new government to change course due to domestic and emotional issues involved," he said.

Italian media’s mixed reaction to marines evading trial in India

Public opinion in Italy on the two marines facing trial in India for mudering two fishermen, is solidly behind their nationals, Italian media reported Wednesday.

Seventy-two percent of respondents in a poll conducted by the news channel Sky Tg2 said they agreed with the Italian government’s decision not to send the marines back to India to stand trial, said the daily La Repubblica.

The Italian government Monday said the marines won’t return to India.

The Italian Navy website acknowledged the public support received by the two marines
"There have been many expressions of solidarity in this period ( for the marines) from people, who have given their solid support in various ways, thorugh e-mail or public demonstartions, " the website statement said.

Turin-based daily La Stampa reported Italian defense ministry officials as saying they were happy with the decision not to send back the marines, who would now be rejoining their duties.

According to La Stampa, a key factor behind the Italian government’s decision was the delay in setting up the special court to try the marines as ordered by the Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court had, in January, rejected a bid by the Italian government to transfer the case to Italy and said the marines would be tried in a special court in Delhi.

The daily Il Manifesto, however, described the Italian move as "scandalous." The decision is scandalous "because the Italian government had given a formal undertaking that the two marines would return to stand trial under India law," said Il Manifesto.

The left-wing Il Manifesto was also critical of the way the marines were given a hero’s welcome on their return.

"It is right to defend them (the accused marines) diplomatically. But to organise an escape is shameful," said Il Manifesto.

India warns of ’consequences’, Italy seeks international solution

Relations between India and Italy remained tense after New Delhi Wednesday warned Rome of "consequences" in bilateral ties over its refusal to send back two marines facing trial for killing two Indian fishermen, an action which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as "unacceptable".

The Italian government said it was prepared to resolve the legal dispute according to international law as the marines were facing trial in a court in Rome.

The prime minister, taking a tough stand in parliament over the diplomatic fracas with a leading European power, said if Italy does not keep its word "there will be consequences". He said Italy’s actions are "unacceptable" and "violate every rule of diplomatic discourse and call into question solemn commitments given by accredited representatives of a sovereign government to our Supreme Court".

This was after Arun Jaitely, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, described the Italian response as "enemy action" and urged the government to "forget diplomacy" and respond strongly.

The Indian reactions came after Italy informed India that the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, would not return to India. They are facing trial for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year, mistaking them for pirates.

India had summoned the Italian envoy, Daniele Mancini, on Tuesday and conveyed to him "in the strongest terms" that Rome was "obliged" to ensure the return of the two marines.

The Supreme Court on Feb 22 allowed the two marines to fly to Italy to vote in the Feb 24-25 national elections. The apex court was given an undertaking by the ambassador that the marines will return in four weeks to face legal proceedings in India.

Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get Latorre and Girone tried in Italian courts, while India contends the shooting occurred in its own territory.

In a note on March 6. the Italian government had requested India to set up a meeting at diplomatic level in order to reach an amicable solution of the controversy. The request "is under examination" by India.

Responding to India’s stand on the standoff, Italian diplomatic officials in a statement Wednesday said that Rome was ready to negotiate the case based on international law.

"The judgment by the Supreme Court of India on Jan 18 has denied Italian jurisdiction on the case and invited both countries to engage in a common effort based upon Article 100 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," the statement said.

"Italy has stated its readiness to start negotiations on such basis. Since there has been no reaction from India in this regard we have come to the conclusion that it is appropriate to solve the legal dispute according to the international law.

"The Note Verbale sent by the Embassy to the external affairs ministry on March 11 was intended to give the opportunity to settle the dispute through the consensual means offered to the parties by the international law with the aim of defining a legally sound solution to the case.

"This is consistent with Italy’s position since we have continuously advocated a settlement of the case according to the rules of international law on jurisdiction of the flag State and on functional immunity of State organs.

"Italy did everything we could to find an acceptable solution to such case, within the framework of our strong and friendly relations with India, and Italy will continue to do so.
"Legal proceedings against the two marines are still under way before the Court of Rome," it said.

The issue has raised much political heat in India. Oommen Chandy, chief minister of Kerala to which state the two killed fishermen belong, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the return of two Italian marines.

"The prime minister’s statement is very strong and we hope Italy will obey the Indian law," Chandy told reporters.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley described Italy’s decision not to return its marines as "enemy action" and urged India to "forget diplomacy" and take action.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley also said that the government should consider action against the Italian ambassador who had stood surety in the court to ensure the marines return to India.

"This is an outright fraud against the government of India and Supreme Court by a sovereign nation. This is a case of state-sponsored abduction," Jaitley said.

Marines issue: BJP waits for Manmohan’s action

BJP on Thursday took pot-shots at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the Supreme Court restrained the Italian Ambassador from leaving the country, saying the Court has performed the job which the Prime Minister should have done.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament on Wednesday where he had warned of consequences over Italy’s action, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said they are waiting for the action which he had committed against that country.

“...the job which the Prime Minister had committed in the House, has made a promise and threatened the nation (Italy), is being performed by the Court and here is the Prime Minister who has made a statement and not performing,” he told reporters outside Parliament.

He said there cannot be a more “laughable situation” then what the PM has created for the country today by his own action and words.

His reaction came after the Supreme Court restrained the Italian Ambassador from leaving the country without its permission, taking exception to Italian government’s refusal to send back marines charged with the killing of two fishermen.

It also issued notice to the two marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, who were allowed by the apex court to go to Italy to cast their vote in the elections there after Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini had given an assurance to send them back.

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