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 Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Both countries have shown themselves to be wanting and hopefully, it is a lesson for both. India was truly gullible to send back the Marines, a second time and Italy, disrespectful of another country's sovereignty, in doing what they did. Finally, it is a victory for peace and sustained good relations between the two countries. All's well that ends well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    varasc ...u kill an indian in the indian ocean u gonna be judged by india as simple as that. Italians cant just bully the world like they used too.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    This sad story is simply umbelievable. The two Italian Fanti di Marina were engaged in an international mission and told they only shot warning shots against an unknown craft too close to their ship. In more than a year they have never been judged. We never saw the ballistic proofs nor the autopsies and India planned to create an ad-hoc special trial for them! This is ridiculous. Shame on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    1) GPS data show that the shooting happened in international waters but India forced the two marines to enter her territories to be judged by an indian court : illegal
    2) India violeted diplomacy immunity: illegal
    3) In India there is still the capital punishment, therefore , Italy was not to send the marines back.
    4) Moral: India kidnapped the marines and the italian Ambassador....

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    So the score is 2-2 ( 1-1 Self Goal) till half time and India expects to dominate the second half with more possession to seal victory ( verdict on marines)

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    This confirms that Italy is a Country adrift. It's Foreign Minister thought that claiming back the Marines cheating the Indian Government would be considered a medal for his future political career. Not only that first move puts the shame on the whole Country, but sending back the two sailors, go beyond shame and bad diplomacy. This Country really needs to push the reset button!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    India has shown once again the long way has to go to get out of her third world country mentality and inferiority complex

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    lessons cont...

    4) No courts should allow diplomatic staff to act as sureties unless their government makes an undertaking to forfeit their diplomatic immunity.

    5) Some kind of international monitoring under UN to facilitate and overview speedy trials involving foreign nationals in member states.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Few lessons to be learned
    1) A uniform rules of engagement for anti piracy missions for all countries participating. The action to be recorded and the procedure to be followed if one has to claim immunity.
    2) An international agency to decide on the jurisdiction on such incidents.
    3) Either bar ambassadors act as guarantors before courts of other countries or forfeit the diplomatic immunity.


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