Is the return of marines an Indian diplomatic win?

Massimiliano Latorre (R) and Salvatore Girone had returned to Italy before Christmas Massimiliano Latorre (R) and Salvatore Girone had returned to Italy before Christmas

Italy's decision to send back to Delhi for trial two marines accused of murdering two Indian fishermen is being described by many in India as a triumph for its diplomacy.

Considering the knotty situation both the countries had got in over the issue - India's Supreme Court barring the Italian ambassador from leaving the country and insisting that he had effectively surrendered his diplomatic immunity with his affidavit promising the marines' return - Rome's decision certainly defuses an unsavoury diplomatic row.

Indian foreign minister spokesman Syed Akbaruddin tweeted that "intensive diplomatic contacts in the last 24 hours led to Italy informing that the marines will return as per time line set up Supreme Court." His Twitter timeline is now littered with congratulatory messages hailing the development as a "victory" for Indian diplomacy.

But some, like former top diplomat Kanwal Sibal, believe the decision to return the marines is actually a "sorry commentary on the ineptness of Italian diplomacy", rather than a big triumph for the Indians.

"The Italians didn't consider the matter seriously. They underestimated the Indian response. Once they saw that the script was not moving as they had anticipated they began to review the matter after treating the marines as heroes," he told me.

"The fact that they decide to send them back projects Italian diplomacy in poor light. It also indicates sharp divisions in the government. Many in the government must have disagreed with Rome's decision not to send back the marines, otherwise they would not have reversed the decision."

Indian diplomats believe Rome did not want to escalate the crisis further after what they describe as the Supreme Court's "bold but questionable decision" to restrain the Italian ambassador from leaving the country in what was described as a violation of the Vienna Convention.

There was also rising concern about the fallout of this crisis on considerable Italian interests - defence deals, for example - in India.

Italy believes they have come out of the crisis with a face saver - it has reportedly received assurances from India about the marines' treatment, their human rights, and the fact that they are not at risk of receiving the death penalty, which in any case seemed highly unlikely.

But, as Indian diplomats are saying, "the stakes had become too high for Italy and they buckled".

Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    India is on the side of the angels in this affair. Italian incompetence and untrustworthiness in this matter is almost sickening,

    I saw that several of my earlier comments have been "removed for further consideration". They clearly offended some people who complained. Fair enough - but I would prefer such comments to be removed by the moderators, not merely left "hidden" in such a limbo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    "India do not respect the law"

    Not true - the Italians are the outlaws here, and their behaviour shows it all too clearly. The 3rd world teaches a lesson in morals to the 1st world. Well done, India.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Contrary to what most have written, on international waters, jurisdiction is completely open to whoever assumes it.

    Beyond that, I'd hope both govs and justice systems will act with intelligence and restraint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Good Solders are too often represented by bad Generals. This worth for all governments and their citizens. Some of the comments confuse this specific International jurisdiction problem with the internal countries (Italy and India) governance. Bare in mind that the end of this trial will have bad influences of the Indians in Italy and the italians in India. My point: India ha bad placed its proud.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Unbelievable how many nonsense comment! facts: the italian soldiers where sailing in international water to protect a boat against pirates attack (approved by international rights). India with a trick attired the boat in the indian sea and arrested the 2 italian soldiers. The italian officers, guilty or not, must go back in Italy an processed by an international court. India do not respect the law


Comments 5 of 150



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