One of the earliest posts on the “An open forum on Italian marines issue” — an online effort by The Hindu and La Repubblica to understand the viewpoints of Indians and Italians on the marines issue — best sums up the intent of the initiative. Simon of Toronto wrote: “At last, SANITY prevails! A lot of differences can be ironed out via discussions and debates, with understanding, tolerance and mutual respect.”

While readers broadly seemed to take a “nationalist” position, there were many meeting points, too.

Many readers, however, seemed to be unclear about the full facts of the case. While agreeing that the incident was unfortunate and that a crime has been committed, an overwhelming majority of Italians said that the shooting happened in international waters and that it was a mistake. So the marines should be tried by an international body, they said. “I hope that India will do the right thing giving this guy a judgment under an international court,” said Giuseppe Rossi.

For many Indians posting in The Hindu website, this was yet another case of a strong European power bullying a “weak” Asian nation. They firmly held that India has the right to try the marines and sentence them. “I’m 100% sure that an equivalent Indian criminal in Italy would not be given special meals, daily meetings, Christmas holidays and voting holidays,” said Tarun Joseph.

But both sides were nearly unanimous that politicians had queered the pitch, and emotions had been allowed to take the upper hand. Many advised a calm approach so that justice is done. One post asked that instead of the marines, the Italian politicians should face trial in India for botching up the issue.

A great worry for Italians seemed to be the death penalty that India allows. The comments seemed to foretell that an assurance by India that the Italians won’t be handed the death penalty should greatly help in having the marines come back to India for trial. “If they are guilty, they must pay. But not with their death. India should respect the laws of the civilized world and abolish the death penalty,” said Peter Parisius.

Italians posting in The Hindu website seemed to ask for patience, compassion and consideration, given India’s past and civilisational values. And Indians posting on La Repubblica asked that Italians understand and trust India.

“It would be wise for anyone to stay calm while the matter is subjudice and watch the legal course with patience. People of both the republics believe in the justice delivery system. It should not be perceived as a piece of revenge seeking opinion however in the event of affirmation of jurisdiction of Indian in this case. Conduct of trial and consequent penalty should be as provided by penal code,” said Venkata Govindaswamy.

“I believe that our military is guilty, but you cannot disregard the fact that the incident has taken place in international waters. The jurisdiction must be Italian, according to international treaties. I cannot fail, however, to ask, as an Italian, forgiveness for the death of the fishermen. Of primary importance is justice,” said Alberto R.

“There’s too much national pride involved in this case in both countries. It’ll be a shame for Italy to see its marines tried in Indian court for murder and disturbing in case they are sentenced to a jail term. The Indian ego comes from a mindset of resurgent India aspiring to be a superpower and hence we will punish those who kill any Indian,” said Nitin.

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