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 write in: “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.

“There’s too much national pride involved in this case in both countries… The Indian ego comes from a mindset of resurgent India aspiring to be a superpower…”