Talking tough, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday asked Italy to send the two marines back to India to stand trial for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast and warned that ties between the countries would suffer if Rome failed to keep its word.
“Our government has insisted that the Italian authorities respect the undertaking they have given to the Supreme Court and return the two accused… If they do not keep their word, there will be consequences for our relations with Italy,” Dr. Singh told Parliament.
Pointing out that the country was agitated over Italy reneging on its promise, an act he dubbed “unacceptable,” Dr. Singh said in the Lok Sabha that the government would work diplomatic channels to bring the marines back. Italy had violated every rule of diplomatic discourse and called into question the solemn commitments given by an accredited representative of its government.
Making a similar statement in the Rajya Sabha, he said the government had made it clear that Italy’s action was “not acceptable.”
“If they do not keep their word, there will be consequences for our relations with Italy,” he said, pointing out that bilateral relationship had to work on the basis of trust.
The Prime Minister impressed upon the members the need for treating this matter with the seriousness it deserved, acting and speaking together as the government pressed ahead with its steps.
Dr. Singh’s response came after the former External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh of the BJP and Basudeb Acharia of the CPI(M) assailed the government.
The Rajya Sabha witnessed uproar as there were demands for the arrest of Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini, who had given a guarantee in the Supreme Court that the marines would return. There was also an adjournment.
Intervening during question hour in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Singh said he shared the members’ concern, and the government was ready for a discussion on the matter as and when they desired.
Mr. Jaswant Singh said it was a “very curious Italian job as the sequence of events makes me wonder where the country is now headed.”
“In a very strange and curious manner,” the marines were granted parole to go home for Christmas. It was a “rather strange” judgment of the Supreme Court that allowed them to go home to vote in the general election.