Marines issue: Italy recalls envoy; summons Indian Ambassador

Written by PTI | Rome | Updated: Feb 19 2014, 04:24am hrs
Marines IssueThe Italian government has ordered the immediate recall of its Ambassador in India for consultations. Reuters
A furious Italy today upped the ante in its standoff with India over the trial of its two marines by recalling its Ambassador in New Delhi and accusing Indian authorities of "unreliable" behaviour amid reports that Italian government may freeze bilateral accords.

Announcing Italy's decision to recall the Ambassador, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said, "The Italian government has ordered the immediate recall of its Ambassador in India, Daniele Mancini, for consultations."

Indian Ambassador in Rome Basant Kumar Gupta was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and told that India was appearing to be drawing out the "affair" of the marines facing trial for allegedly killing two fishermen off Kerala coast two years ago. Italy's "dismay" over the prolongation of the trial was conveyed to him, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

What appeared to have angered Italy today was the postponement of the Supreme Court hearing in New Delhi earlier in the day to February 24 in the case involving marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, facing murder charges. The hearing was earlier scheduled for today.

Leading the charge against India was Bonino who said after the Court had delayed the case for "umpteenth time" that "we cannot go and get them (marines) by military force" but "several initiatives" were open to the new Italian government to be sworn-in by the weekend.

Media reports in Rome said that the "initiatives" may include freezing bilateral accords and pulling soldiers from anti-piracy missions being undertaken by the Italian navy.

In New Delhi, official sources said Ministry of External Affairs have not been informed by Italy about the move. There is no need for the Italian government to inform MEA, if they are calling their Ambassador for consultations, they said.

"The main objective of Italy is to get the return as timely homeland of the two Riflemen...," Banino said, adding given "inability of India to manage the affair, Italy will continue and intensify its commitment to the recognition of their rights as a sovereign state in accordance with international law."

Expressing disappointment, Italian government's envoy, dealing with the marines issue, Staffan De Mistura said, "Rome will decide in the coming hours the line to get in front of this situation."

Justifying Ambassador's "recall", Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro said, "The decision of the Italian government to recall the Ambassador to Italy is not only justified but unavoidable and reflects the sentiment of our people."

"The measure is full and even greater is the outrage that invests across the nation and which can not propagate to the entire international community. Upon this case there is no justice, we are faced with a behaviour ambiguous and unreliable by the Indian authorities," Mauro was quoted as saying by ANSA.

Latorre and Girone are facing trial for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012.

Italy has registered strong protest against India for slapping the provisions of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf (SUA) Act against the marines asserting that these provisions are slapped against pirates and its marines are not pirates.

Italy has also lobbied with the European Union, which has said it is "disappointed" to learn that "two years after the accident", the Supreme Court has once again postponed the decision on which law should be applied for the prosecution and reaffirmed "that it would be inappropriate for the application of the Anti-Terrorism Act."

"We have clearly stated that we are very concerned, because if there will be an indictment (on the basis of the anti-terrorism law) as expected when there will be major consequences on our fight against piracy", the EU spokesman was quoted as saying.