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India threatens diplomatic action as Italy refuses to send back marines

CNN-IBN
Mar 13, 2013 at 11:42am IST

New Delhi: Two days after the Italian government snubbed India by deciding not to send back its marines charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen, the Indian government is finally taking strong steps against Italy and threatening tough diplomatic action. Sources have told CNN-IBN that India may expel Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini and a decision on this is likely to be formalised within a week.

The issue will also be taken up in Parliament after Opposition parties pressured the government with the BJP alleging collusion between New Delhi and Rome. The BJP will move a Calling Attention Motion on Wednesday in both Houses of Parliament demanding answers from the government. The opposition party said the diplomatic tussle is a contempt of the Supreme Court.

ALSO SEE Harish Salve quits as Italy's lawyer

The Left parties as well as Congress MPs from Kerala, who had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday to request that all efforts be made to ensure the return of the two marines. Manmohan Singh also called the Italian government's decision unacceptable.

Singh told the Left MPs that he will ask External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to take up the issue with Italy. The Italian Ambassador was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs on the issue. The government urged Italy to "honour the commitment" made to the Supreme Court of India and brushed away its suggestion of arbitration to resolve the issue. "Italy is obliged to ensure that the marines return to India as per their assurance. He (Italian Ambassador) took note of our position and said he would convey that to Rome," Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said after meeting the Italian envoy on Tuesday evening.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is also likely to meet the Prime Minister on Wednesday. Chandy on Tuesday said, "You should see the earnestness in how Kerala pursued this case in the... courts and also in the apex court in the country. Our stand remains the same that they should stand trial here according to the Indian law."

Meanwhile, in another blow to Italy, senior counsel Harish Salve has refused to appear for Italy any more in the Kerala fishermen killings case. This comes after Italy refused to send back its marines to India. In a statement, Harish salve said, "I have informed the Italian ambassador that it will no longer be possible for me to appear or be associated with this case."

Calling Italy's action a breach of faith, Salve said in the statement, "I consider this action of the Republic of Italy as a breach of faith. It is my perception that the Italian Government should have, in the least, forewarned its Indian lawyers of the change of its position before communicating it to the Government of India."

He said it was act of grace on part of the Supreme Court to allow the Italian marines to travel to Italy for elections. "It was an act of faith in a friendly government that the Government of India did not oppose this request, and an act of grace on the part of the Supreme Court of India to grant the permission sought for," Salve said in his statement.

Italy maintained that the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get the two marines - Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - tried in Italian courts, but India contended the shooting occurred in its own territory. 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.

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