New Delhi: India took a stern stand against Italy on Wednesday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning it of consequences if doesn't send its marines to India to face trial in the fishermen killing case. In fact, sources have indicated that the Ministry of Home Affairs has informed the Ministry of External Affairs that Italian envoy Daniele Mancini should not be given diplomatic immunity. Sources say he may even be expelled soon.
Parliament on Wednesday remained stalled over the diplomatic issue as the Opposition demanded specific actions from the Government of India against Italy. Amidst an uproar in the House, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent out a warning to Italy. Manmohan Singh accused Italy of violating "every rule of diplomatic discourse" and asked it to send back the two marines undergoing trial for killing Indian fishermen, failing which there will be consequences on bilateral ties.
Responding to the issue raised by the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, Singh noted that the country is agitated over Italy's action which is "unacceptable" and said the government will pursue diplomatic channels to bring the two marines back. Urging the Italian authorities to respect the undertaking given to the Supreme Court, he said they should return the two accused - Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - to stand trial here for the incident of February last year.
"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.
The Prime Minister, who made a similar statement in Rajya Sabha, said the government has already made it clear that this action by the Italian government is "not acceptable". "If they do not keep their word there will be consequences for our relations with Italy," Singh said firmly, adding that bilateral relationship has to function on the basis of trust.
Assuring Parliament that the government would continue to urge Italy through diplomatic channels to send back the marines, he wanted the members to act and speak together while dealing with the matter with the seriousness that it deserves.
Meanwhile, sources have told CNN-IBN that the Home Ministry has informed the Ministry of External Affairs that Italian envoy Daniele Mancini should not be allowed to invoke diplomatic immunity since he had given a sovereign undertaking to the Supreme Court and has violated it. The government is likely to move an application in the Supreme Court in this regards.
This came as the Italian ambassador justified Italy's action and said that he is confident that both the countries will resolve the crisis over the marines. He said he working with India on the issue. "There are some difficulties between the two countries, we are working with the Indian institutions and the government on this in order to do whatever we can and overcome this. I am confident that like two mature democracies we will be able to overcome these difficulties," he said. Sources say that India may expel Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini and a decision on this is likely to be formalised within a week.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also met the Prime Minister and discussed the issue. After the meeting Chandy said the marines will have to come back to India to face trial in the Kerala fishermen murder case.
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said the Italian government's stand is completely unacceptable. "We have made our position clear and have conveyed to the Italian government that the content of their note is completely unacceptable and as soon as we receive a reply from the Italian side, we will take a decision," he said.
All eyes are now on the Government of India as to what action it will take against Italy to make sure the marines are sent to India for trial in the fishermen killing 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.
While the government prepares the action plan, many question still remain unanswered:
- Why was the envoy's guarantee accepted when he enjoys immunity from contempt of court?
- Why didn't Centre oppose marines' plea to return home?
- Will SC take steps to enforce Italy's commitments made to it?
- Will the impasse affect the Agusta probe underway in Italy?