New Delhi: The Prime Minister has said in Parliament that the government is ready to discuss in any forum, Italy's refusal to send back two marines charged with killing two Kerala fishermen at sea last year. An aggressive BJP has said it wants an explanation and has accused the government of colluding with Italy to script the marines' escape. The government is reportedly weighing options, including that of expelling Italian ambassador Daniel Mancini, who given the Supreme Court a written undertaking that the two men would be back in four weeks after voting in the Italian elections.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this story:
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Lok Sabha today, "I share the concern of the house. We are ready for discussion in any form." (Read PM's statement in parliament)
- Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was representing the two marines in the Supreme Court, said this morning that he had told Italy he was withdrawing as their counsel. He said in a statement that he was shocked that the Italian government had reneged on its assurance given to the court. "The Italian government elected to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court," he said. He called it a breach of faith by Italy. (Read Harish Salve's full statement)
- Sources in the Italian government have said, "Italy did everything we could to find an acceptable solution to the case, within the framework of our strong and friendly relations with India, and we will continue to do so." Italy points out that the marines are also facing legal proceedings in a court in Rome for the same incident. It has also said that India has ignored its request to find a diplomatic solution to the issue. (Read: Will search for acceptable solution on marines: Italian officials to NDTV)
- On Tuesday evening, India's Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned the Italian envoy and lodged a strong protest over Rome's decision not to honour its commitment. New Delhi says the Italian envoy's assurance has to be fulfilled and the marines must return by March 23, when the four-week deadline set by the Supreme Court ends.
- Sources say while the government, which is seen to have limited options, is considering expelling Ambassador Mancini, a decision has not been taken yet with a section of the government arguing that this will only escalate the diplomatic row.
- There is much anger in Kerala, where Chief Minister Oommen Chandy of the Congress said, "The responsibility of getting them back to India lies completely with the Centre". The wife of one of the fishermen who was shot said: "This is nothing but a conspiracy at the highest level." The woman, who uses just her first name, Dora, said, "The Indian government should see that they bring back the two marines to stand trial in the case in our country."
- Among other options that the government is considering, sources said, is to continue the trial here in the absence of the two men, and if they are found guilty, seek an Interpol notice for their arrest. But, not many in the government feel this is viable.
- A third option being looked at, said sources, is approaching the International Criminal Court, but India has insisted that this case is in its jurisdiction and is not keen to take it to an international forum.
- Italy says that it is open to international mediation, but trying the sailors in India violates their rights and the principle of immunity for foreign state actors. Rome says they should be tried in an Italian court and that the shooting happened in international waters, which India disputes. It says the marines were part of an anti-piracy military security team for a cargo ship and shot the fishermen because they thought they were pirates.
- The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the men should be tried by a special court to be set up by the central government in consultation with the chief justice. The decision removed the case from the jurisdiction of Kerala.