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

RK Laxman: Chronicler of Indian life

RK Laxman, who has died aged 94, created the most famous character in Indian cartooning.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • 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

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    142. The Lone Gunman :
    "In the 70's they let Palastinian terrorists go", as other countries
    "the mafia have abused the justice system for many years". Is your country without any criminals? where you live?
    "Domestic terrorists got of lightly". .Look which countries was on the back of terrorism in italy
    " it when a certain ex PM goes to prison". Are you a judge? you have a strange view of justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Hopefully India knows that the world is watching them when the trial gets under way. Having a prominent naval chief describe the defendants as "murderers" and the bellicose statements from the BJP could lead anyone to assume the Italians were acting quite wisely in keeping their men out of the prejudiced bear pit masquerading as a court in India.
    India now has to prove that justice is independent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Most Indians have integrated successfully into Italian life, and local authorities and people are impressed with their contributions to the local economy. They have been found to be generally very industrious, hard working, and law-abiding, they are not third world people India is on the verge of becoming a super power Italy needs to learn diplomacy they lost twice here

  • Comment number 142.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Diplomacy is not defined by throwing your weight around, as the author of this article clearly believes.

    By acting in a blustering, emotional and highly nationalistic fashion, India confirms the views of many in the global community.

    India is only strong because nobody can hurt a nation whose people are already suffering in such squalor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Geneva convention is related to the treatment of POWs. What you want to say is Vienna convention. And "going back on one's diplomatic assurances" in not in keeping with this code which is my point.
    Italy has promised, they need to honor their promise.
    Italian diplomacy is not emabarassing because it failed. It is embarassing because what they tried to do: renege on an assurance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Last time I checked Marines were soldiers and soldiers act on orders, or to defend themselves when threatened.

    Not taking a side, just a statement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    @13 mcgrison - Marco Polo, Antonio Gramsci, Guiseppe Garibaldi,... . Nicolo Machiavelli

  • Comment number 137.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 136.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 135.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 134.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    perhaps, BBC started to outsource their jobs to India..

  • Comment number 132.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    The lasting legacy of this episode is that India will be remembered for generations, along with Iran, as a country that throws out the rules of International Diplomacy when domestic politics requires it. Even countries in all-out war respect the Vienna Convention. As for Italy, this just confirms that Italian officials sometimes overrule each other and make poor decisions. No surprise there!


Page 1 of 8



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.