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Italy stand on marines unacceptable: Indian PM
Publication Date : 13-03-2013
The Italian government's refusal to send back its two marines, facing trial in India for allegedly killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast early last year, has sparked a political uproar within and outside Parliament, even as the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh purportedly said that Italy's decision was “unacceptable” and that India will strongly take up the matter with that country.
Delegations of Left MPs and the Congress-led United Democratic Front MPs from Kerala met the PM separately to protest Italy's decision, express their anguish and demand his intervention in the “serious” matter.
According to the Left MPs, Singh told them that Italy's decision was “unacceptable”.
The PMO was, however, said to have clarified that Singh only told the delegations that the matter would be examined and that he will ask the external affairs minister Salman Khurshid to take up the issue with the Italian government.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) MP P Karunakaran, who led the Left MPs’ delegation to meet the PM, also told reporters that Singh agreed that the Italian government’s stand was “unacceptable”. Senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said that the PM had promised to take up the issue “strongly”.
Karunakaran also said the PM assured the delegation that the matter would be taken up “strongly” with the Italian government. Left party members raised the issue within Parliament, even as outside the House, both the Left and the principal opposition, the BJP (Indian People's Party), attacked the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over Italy's announcement yesterday that its two marines, who were recently granted permission by the Supreme Court to go home to vote in the general elections, will not return to India to face trial due to international dispute between the two countries in this regard.
The Congress MP P C Chacko, who led the UDF's delegation to the PM, said, “More than saying whether this is acceptable or not, the prime minister has said that he will ask external affairs minister to take up this issue and use all diplomatic channels to bring them back”.
The CPM MP K N Balagopal alleged that it was “the result of a high-level conspiracy between somebody holding the highest post in the Indian government and the Government of Italy”.
Yechury said the government should explain how it allowed the two marines to go home for casting their votes in an election, when the Indian laws did not allow this right to Indian citizens in similar circumstances. Slamming the Centre, the BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar alleged Italy's refusal to return the two marines was an instance of “diplomatic collusion” between the UPA government and the Italian government.
Describing the episode as a “betrayal and bluff”, the BJP also said that it was a case of contempt of the Supreme Court.
Khurshid said that his ministry was examining the matter and that New Delhi will come up with an appropriate response on the matter.
The law minister Ashwani Kumar said the external affairs and his ministry will consult with each other and “make sure that we proceed ahead as effectively as we can”.
Italian envoy summoned
The Italian ambassador to India was today summoned by the ministry of external affairs in connection with the case involving two naval guards from Italy. Italy’s refusal to send back the two marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen left the MEA in a spot with political parties crying foul. In a strongly worded statement, the MEA said that, “Government of India states firmly that it does not agree with the position conveyed by the Italian Government on the return of the two Marines to India. The Italian Ambassador was summoned by the Foreign Secretary today and Government of India’s position on this matter was conveyed to him in the strongest of terms. It was conveyed to him that India expects the Republic of Italy as a country that is committed to the rule of law to fulfil the sovereign undertaking given by it to the Supreme Court of India.”