India awaiting response from Italy

Even as the political tempest rages over Italy’s refusal to send back two marines wanted for killing of two Kerala fishermen, on the diplomatic front, both sides sought space to resolve the issue.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said South Block would await a response from Rome before taking a call on the future course of action.

Mr. Mathai was referring to the summoning of Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini to the Foreign Office on Tuesday, asking him to stand by his undertaking to ensure the return of the marines.

In the absence of Secretary (West) Sudhir Vyas, who was travelling with President Pranab Mukherjee, it was Mr. Mathai who interacted with the Italian Ambassador and told him that his country was “obliged to ensure” the return of the marines within the four weeks’ time given by the Supreme Court to vote in the Italian general elections (which were over) and spend some time with their families.

As the Supreme Court passed the order on February 22, officials said, the window would close around March 22.

At a separate press conference, the Italian Ambassador expressed his government’s willingness to resolve the issue by consensus and wanted New Delhi to mull over some of the proposals forwarded by his mission to the Indian government.

“For us the supremacy of the international law needs to be reassessed. In these very months and these few weeks and in the last few days we put a number of proposals to the Indian authorities to solve this case by consensual means. This is what we still want to be doing,” Mr. Mancini told journalists. He admitted that Italy’s refusal to send back the marines, who were technically on parole, led to “difficult moments” in ties with India. At the same time, he expressed willingness to engage with Indian diplomats to find a solution.

The Ambassador claimed that Italy’s decision came after India failed to respond to a letter sent on March 6.

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