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Updated: March 8, 2012 01:06 IST

‘Weak' Italy seen failing diplomatic battle of wits with rising India

AFP
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PRESSURE'S UP: A statue of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius at Rome's Campidoglio Capitol Hill frames a protest poster of the two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fishermen and arrested by the Kerala police. The poster reads
AP
PRESSURE'S UP: A statue of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius at Rome's Campidoglio Capitol Hill frames a protest poster of the two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fishermen and arrested by the Kerala police. The poster reads "Let's save our Marines."

Experts say Italy's government is failing its first big foreign policy test, as the fate of a pair of marines arrested for killing two Indian fishermen risks a diplomatic crisis with a resurgent India.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were deployed as guards on an Italian oil tanker under a new agreement against piracy when they allegedly shot and killed two fishermen they mistook for pirates on February 15. They said their ship was approached by a smaller, fast-moving vessel.

Several observers have called into question Italy's attempts to intervene in the case of the marines, who remain in custody in India, and critics say the country would have been better off involving the European Union in its diplomatic efforts.

“The government has proceeded in fits and starts, following a wavering and therefore inevitably weak line,” read an editorial in the Corriere della Sera daily this week after an Indian court sent the marines to prison.

The editorial said Prime Minister Mario Monti's government, which came to power in November, had approached the case with “unjustified presumption.”

“The facts of the last few days demonstrate that Italy does not have sufficient international stature to be negotiating from a position of force with a great power like India that is increasingly conscious of its status,” it said.

Italy says the marines should be prosecuted in their homeland because the incident occurred on an Italian-flagged vessel in international waters. India says the incident took place in its waters off the state of Kerala.

The Italian Foreign Ministry initially adopted a softly-softly diplomatic approach to the case. But the rhetoric has been stepped up.

Online reactions

Junior Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura, a former United Nations envoy to Iraq, was dispatched to India on February 21 and has been there ever since lobbying for the immediate release of the two men.

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on Saturday said the case represented an infringement of Italy's national sovereignty and on Tuesday he summoned India's Ambassador to Rome, Debabrata Saha, to condemn the inquiry as illegitimate.

“There is pressure in Italy, especially from representatives of the former government, for a more radical line,” said Francesco Francioni, a law professor at the European University Institute near Florence.

Monti's government “is beginning to feel under siege,” he added.

Supporters of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, including ex-Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, have called for a more strong-arm approach and some have appealed for widely-respected President Giorgio Napolitano to step in.

Far-right activists have held small protests outside the Indian embassy and there have even been calls on Internet forums for a full- scale boycott of Indian goods and of the growing number of Indian-owned businesses in Italy.

At a rally in the centre of Rome on Tuesday, activists held up a banner reading: “Stop playing at (Cowboys and) Indians, Free the Italian Sailors.” Another sign with photos of the two men said: “Let's save our marines.” Lawmakers from the podium denounced a “weak” government and called for “decisive action,” as the protesters waved Italian flags.

Francioni said Italy should have moved more quickly to involve the European Union in its diplomacy and suggested one possible solution could be an appeal to the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Germany.

“A European approach would probably have been better for Italy, especially by involving countries that have more leverage like Britain. India is a great emerging power and is very aware of its political weight,” Francioni said. The La Repubblica daily reported that Monti himself was increasingly displeased with the Foreign Ministry seen as pursuing “a not very effective line” and said the case had been a source of heated debate at a cabinet meeting this week.Terzi's high-profile visit to India at the end of February is being seen by the rest of the government as “a failure,” La Repubblica said.

It added: “This is the first stumble, the first headache that Super Mario's government can't resolve. In fact it's getting worse by the day.” — AFP

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If India will not return the two Italian marines to Italy in order to let them be judged according to international treaties there will be bad as well as good consequences.

1) The bad ones will be for India in terms of image damage. India will be not longer perceived as the largest, friendliest and most open democracy of the world.

2) The good ones will be for Italy. Italy is ruled since November 2011 by a puppet-government that was not elected by anybody and was imposed to our country against its people's will. The shameful inability of the Italian government to serve any other interest but those of the international banking clique that appointed it will hopefully be clear to anybody. It could be the beginning of the resurection of Italy's national sentiment.

from:  Italo
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 17:24 IST

Two innocent and armed fisherman, who were the bread-earners of their families, were killed in waters just 22 miles out of the shores of Indian coast line. Not a single incidence of piracy in these waters hitherto. The marines shot dead the fishermen without giving even a warning shot or following the standard procedures of evasive meanouvre, shooting across the bow of the boat etc. Only the cases of sea accidents are to be given over to the corresponding country of the flag bearing ship. This is an outright murder and I wonder how some of the commenters support the marines and clamouring them to be released from the court of law of India. The marines are treated well here and of course will be lightly punished even though the case is serious. To my Italian friends, please cooperate with the law of the land.

from:  Reji Mathew
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 10:10 IST

I hope our judge is going decide without nationalist spirit .
Not as this article suggest ..weak Italy vs strong India.
They are Italian soldiers. If in court, they can prove its a
genuine mistake, we should be ready to leave them..Because they are
not civilians but soldiers trying to protect their ship, killing NOT
because of some personal interest ..
There are many Tamil fishermen getting attached by Sri Lankan navy.
What about arresting some Lankan soldiers ? I know, Sri Lankan navy is
in their territory .. In this case also, they claims they are in
International territory ... Place of incident also should be decided
by court based on arguments from both sides...

from:  Binu
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 09:16 IST

There are concepts of presenting evidence, establishing jurisdiction etc. that are involved
here. In addition people in three west may be used to seeing justice done somewhat more
speedily than it happens in India. A judge simply remanding suspects to jail for an indefinite
amount of time with no progress in the case for weeks, months, and years while the
suspects rot or even die in rat infested jail - will not be acceptable in the international
arena. So let the police bring their case and proveot before a jury consisting of 6 italians
And 6 Indians.

from:  Mukundagiri sadagopan
Posted on: Mar 11, 2012 at 03:32 IST

Sorry to come back to my arguments. I did not enter in any national system either Indian or
Italian. I just referred to justice and rights. This case is clear. No evidence of involvement of
the two marines has, up to now, being demonstrated, nevertheless two soldiers are in jail.
Activist in Rome do NOT represent Italians as, I assume, racists and integralists do NOT
represent Indians.

from:  Paulo
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 17:50 IST

Quote from Paulo this:

"Priority should be given to establish,first of all, the truth, and, as a consequence, decision on how to treat this issue could be delegated to international codes and agreements. In any case, an other principle in use in all civilized countries should apply: nobody can be judged as guilty until the final sentence is written"

But i read also that judged is already been written by the Indian media:

" ... they allegedly shot and killed two fishermen they mistook for pirates on February 15."

Probably true:

"The facts of the last few days demonstrate that Italy does not have sufficient international stature to be negotiating from a position of force with a great power like India"

Probably untrue:

"a great power like India that is increasingly conscious of its status"

We will see.Certain that this great nation will judge objectively without allowing politics to corrupt justice.

I conclude by expressing sympathize deeply with the victims and their families.

from:  Maurizio from Rome
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 05:19 IST

I don't see how this is a case of weak Italy vs strong India. Let me
get this---two Italian nationals murder Indian fishermen, are
apprehended in India, but should not even to be tried in India? The
hubris is unbelievable. If anything, this is Italy trying to throw its
weight around. I wonder if this would even be an issue if the tables
were turned.

Ah, and the nice dose of racism that always seems to be thrown for
free---"cowboys and Indians"? Sorry "activists in Rome", you are
insulting a completely different set of people with that one.

from:  Prasad
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 01:43 IST

Italians, accused of crime, should be tried only in Italy? Seriously? Remember the infamous Italian justice system in Amanda Knox's case? How should I put this..De ja Vu?

from:  Max Buoy
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 01:15 IST

Sir, the case will be solved as soon as the by-election is over on
19th. The state govt and the oppsn are badly in need of a win. Both are
chest beating for the sake of the votes. Once it is over the case will
be solved without any heart-beating. It is an international drama.

from:  Devadas Salem.
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 00:47 IST

I would like to point out that I do not feel comfortable reading
comments related to this case posted in the web. All I can see is
arguments in favour or against two soldiers mostly based on racial,
religious, political or nationalist issues rather than on legislation
and international agreements. Priority should be given to establish,
first of all, the truth, and, as a consequence, decision on how to
treat this issue could be delegated to international codes and
agreements. In any case, an other principle in use in all civilized
countries should apply: nobody can be judged as guilty until the final
sentence is written. In the meantime, jail should be avoided since
there are several alternative measures that can be adopted, such as
being in custody at home (impossible in this case) or in other agreed
address. I really hope to read more about justice and rights rather
than desire of revenge against Italy or Italians without our country
having ever given any reason for this.

from:  Paulo
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 19:53 IST

The newspaper editors who write in the Italian press - like most of their European counterparts - have clearly no idea what India is about. They are stuck with their notions of 3rd world and 1st world. If there had been concrete evidence to show that the shootings took place in international waters, then India would have definitely referred the matter to an international court. It's also wrong to assume that involving the EU would have made any difference. On the contrary, can one see the UK or Germany sticking their necks out for two Italian sailors in the face of real evidence?

from:  Promith
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 17:17 IST

This incident is unfortunate and it would be proper for democratic India and its judicial system to sort out the matter as early as possible.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 16:14 IST

the thrust of the argument in this article in fact undermines the legitimacy of the indian stand that it is in the hands of judiciary which is free and fair and executive has not much role to play now.....because it seems to suggest that this course of action is being pursued as italy is a weak nation and perhaps if the counterparty were say united states , indias stand would have been a lot different....indeed it would be interesting to speculate what would have been the actions by either side in a hypothetical case where italians are replaced by americans !!!

from:  Jafo
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:18 IST

The Italians fool themselves and the world after committing crime. No European country wants to support them. If things escalate, India should call for ASIAN UNION. The members of administrative people of UN should not show partiality. If UN shows its favour to a particular country, nobody believe in UN.

from:  Marlo
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 11:48 IST

1962 war did a greatest damage to India's international prestige. Socialist India could recover some from 1971 victory. But, during whole cold war time, international situation was not favorable for India. Things are changing. Any civilized nation cannot risk putting diplomatic relations with India & China in crisis, if they want fruits of rise of these giants. This Italian Marine episode will definitely raise image of India, only pitfall is - not to overstretch the string. Europe must be feeling urgency of strengthening European Union, whereas for India urgent need is to strengthen hard Power in Indian Ocean Periphery.

from:  Mahesh J
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 01:27 IST
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