New Delhi: The deaths of two Indian fishermen who were shot dead by Italian marines off the coast of Kochi last week is testing the relationship between Italy and India. Here are 10 developments in the case:
1) India's junior minister for Foreign Affairs, Preneet Kaur, met Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura in New Delhi this morning. But the new round of consultations ended without a hint of a compromise. "Two innocent lives have been taken," Ms Kaur said after the hour-long meeting. "The law will take its own course." Mr De Mistura said the incident took place in international waters "and investigation will ascertain the exact position" of the Italian ship. "We are taking it seriously. We are definitely expressing terrible sadness and regret over the loss of lives," he said.
2) Italy says India has wrongly arrested the marines. Italy officials have stressed that their laws require armed guards to be on board their ships, and that the marines mistook the fishermen for Somalian pirates. Italy wants the marines to be tried at home according to international laws; it says India's action is "unilateral and coercive." Today, it moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of the FIR against the marines.
3) India says the law of the land must apply. It says the incident took place within its waters, and that the fishermen were shot at without any provocation. A case of murder has been registered against the two marines.
4) The family of Jelestine, one of the two Indians who was killed, has filed a case saying that the arrested Italians should not be allowed to leave Kerala without paying a crore as compensation. In response to the petition, the Kerala High Court has said that the Italian ship cannot leave India till a bank guarantee of 25 lakhs is provided in court. However, this is an interim order - both parties will now file counter-affidavits.
5) The two Italian soldiers, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were guarding the Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie when they allegedly mistook the fishermen - Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Jelestine, 45, from Kerala - for Somalian pirates and fired at them. They were arrested on Sunday.
6) Yesterday, a magistrate in Kerala issued a search warrant that empowers the police to search the ship and seize the murder weapons.
7) The tanker was sailing from Singapore to Egypt when the incident took place. Italian authorities insist that the men should not be prosecuted in India as the tanker was flying under an Italian flag in international waters when the shooting occurred on Wednesday last off the coast of Kerala.
8) Italy's Defence Ministry has claimed that the fishermen behaved aggressively and were repeatedly warned before the shots were fired. The Indian Coast Guard has, however, contradicted the claims that the behaviour of the two fishermen provoked the Italians to open fire.
9) External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has publicly urged the Italians to cooperate in the ongoing investigations. "I have been in talks with the Italian Foreign Minister and the Kerala Chief Minister...the law of the land will have to take its own course, we have advised the Italians to cooperate with the Kerala law agencies to achieve an amicable solution," he said.
10) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has termed the incident off the Kollam coast as "cold-blooded murder" and promised "strict legal action". (With agency inputs)