New Delhi: Insisting the government had "no deal" with Italy on the marines' issue, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday said that India kept channel of communication opened despite pressure from public. "We always kept alive the hope that marines would return," said the Union Minister, while addressing a press conference in New Delhi.
Khurshid said while his ministry just did its "job" and succeeded in getting back the marines, who are facing a trial in India for killing two Kerala fishermen, there was no reason for the Opposition to take credit for their return. "See no reason why the Opposition should take credit for marines' return," he said.
The minister said the Italian marines' trial was an unusual case and special courts would be constituted soon to hear such cases. He also added that the government had assured Italy that the marines won't be arrested after their arrival in India. "We have clarified for Italy's benefit in writing that if marines come back within the time frame, there will be no question of arresting them. They are free to move around the country," Khurshid said.
The two Italian marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, will return to India on Friday. While India has called it a diplomatic victory, it has also assured Italy that the marines will not be arrested on their return and neither will they face death penalty as the case is not a rarest of rare case.
Making a statement in Parliament, earlier in the day, Khurshid said the two marines are on their way back and also informed that notwithstanding pending proceedings, the government has assured the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within time frame laid down by the Supreme Court.
Embassy sources told CNN-IBN that the marines would be taken straight to the Italian Embassy and would be available to face trial by a special court set up by the Supreme Court. The marines are being escorted by Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura. Sources said there was a possibility that the marines could serve their prison term in Italy.
The trial of the marines cannot be expected any time soon. There are complex legal issues to be sorted out first between Italy and India. The Italians are bound to question the legality of the marines' detention in India as Italy says the shooting of the Indian fishermen did not take place in India waters.
Reacting to Italy's decision to send back the marines, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it was a result of combined efforts of the Opposition, the government and the Supreme Court. "Must say the combined effort of the Opposition to persuade the government to carry on its diplomacy seems to have worked. The tough stand taken by the Supreme Court also had its impact," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
As the BJP took credit for Italy's decision to send back marines, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "If the government's diplomacy succeeds and the BJP takes credit, I have no problem. But, ultimately it's the government's diplomacy which has succeeded." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "Marines are coming back as per the Supreme Court's direction. We welcome the move, which is consistent with dignity of the judicial process of India."