New Delhi: The Italian ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini, has said that he will not leave India until he is made persona non grata, meaning an unwelcome person, over the Italian marines row. His statement came amidst reports that India was looking to expel the envoy from the country.
"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.
The Italian envoy said competent authorities in his country will give "finest" attention to India's views on the whole issue. "All that is said by the Indian authorities will receive the finest attention by the competent Italian authorities. I conveyed this when I was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs. We are here to stay," he said.
The envoy's statement came amidst reports that India was looking to expel him after Italy's refusal to send the two marines back.
"We are very keen to work in all possible manners with the Indian government. We are two friendly nations... We want to work with Indian authorities," he said stressing that there should be separation of the "critical legal issue" from the bilateral relations.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs said that Mancini should not be allowed to invoke diplomatic immunity since he had given a sovereign undertaking to the Supreme Court before securing four weeks' leave for the marines.
Meanwhile, senior counsel Harish Salve, who was representing the marines in the fishermen killings case, on Wednesday quit, saying that it would no longer be possible "for me to appear or be associated with this case". He also said that Mancini will now be made to appear before the Supreme Court if the two accused in the case did not return.
"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," Salve added.
The two marines had been allowed to visit their country to participate in the elections there on an undertaking from the envoy. However, On Monday evening, the Italian government made it clear that it didn't intend to send back the two marines.
The SC's sanctioned leave period ends on March 22 and the government is hoping to reconcile differences with the country over the matter. However, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did speak tough, warning Italy of grave consequences if the duo was not sent back for trial. "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.
The opposition has been targeting the government over the matter, alleging collusion between New Delhi and Rome to protect the marines.
Senior lawyer Salve, however, refuted those claims saying that there was no deal between India and Italy. "Both the Centre and the Supreme Court have been taken for a ride. The Centre and the SC acted with grace (in allowing the marines to visit their country for elections) after taking an undertaking from the Italian envoy," he said.
With additional information from PTI
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