Outlining the reasons for sending back to India the two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast, the outgoing Prime Minister, Mario Monti, said Rome faced a serious risk of being isolated internationally and could have opened a crisis of “serious proportions” with New Delhi.
As for the abrupt resignation of his Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, Mr. Monti said he quit with motives not limited to the marines issue.
The Premier, who himself was sworn in as interim Foreign Minister to replace Mr. Terzi, said Italy, in its diplomatic row with India, risked ruining relations with key trade allies in the developing world but denied that economics was a factor in the decision-making process.
Mr. Monti said he was “stunned” by Mr. Terzi’s decision, adding his former chief diplomat gave no warning of his quitting, and that his real aim was “to achieve another end that may become clearer in the near future,” Italian news agency INSA reported .
On Tuesday, Mr. Terzi resigned claiming that his voice went “unheard” as the caretaker Cabinet decided to send back Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to India, 10 days after Italy reneged on a pledge to return the marines, who had been granted a four-week leave.
Mr. Monti, addressing Parliament on Wednesday night, stressed the diplomatic stakes. “There were serious and objective risks that Italy would find itself isolated in the international community,” if it had failed to ensure that the duo returned to India. “It would have opened a crisis of serious proportions with India“.
Since the marines returned, relations had improved between the two countries and that should lead to “a quick solution.”
Insisting that economic interests did not influence the decision, Mr. Monti said, “Let me reject forcefully any speculation about possible exchanges or agreements with India.” Some media outlets have linked the marines’ case to bribery allegations surrounding the Rs. 3,600-crore VVIP helicopter deal that is being probed by the CBI.
Speaking before the Senate, Mr. Monti said Italy had faced “measures” from India and fellow BRICS countries as a consequence of its choosing not to return the marines to face trial. “We had word from Foreign Undersecretary Staffan de Mistura that the possibility of measures being taken against Italy was being considered.”