Senior European parliamentarians have told NDTV that it is regrettable the Italian marines issue caused the European Union to delay a response to dates for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Europe visit. The MPs say they are disappointed and discomforted that the India-EU summit won't happen next month as was widely expected.
The summit was put off after the EU did not respond to dates proposed by the Indian government reportedly after Italy raised objections over the marines' issue. Two Italian marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, were detained over the shooting of two Indian fishermen in February 2002 while on anti-piracy duty aboard an Italian cargo ship off Kochi's coast. They are yet to be formally charged in the case.
The Chair of the EU Parliament delegation, Geoffrey Van Orden, told NDTV that the issue of the Italian marines did figure in the "background" to the decision to delay a response on the dates.
"It would seem there was an issue in the background somewhere but clearly there were delays in responding to the Indian PM and we can understand that he was not able to adhere to the dates which had been proposed," Mr Orden said.
The Vice Chair, Nina Gill, told NDTV this was a disappointing move and that if the marines issue was a cause, they would raise it in the European Parliament, stressing on the need for greater engagement with India.
Earlier, Mr Orden also commented on the trial of the Italian marines, saying "We attach importance to imprisonment of citizens of our member states. We have respect for Indian legal processes. In this case the process has gone on too long and we would like to see it expedited. This should not however impact India-EU ties."
PM Modi will be traveling to France and Germany next month and then on to Canada. Government sources say India had proposed a summit with the EU in Brussels around that time, but got no response from the EU and no communication. Sources say the delay may have to do with the case pending against the Italian marines, over which Italy has raised objections repeatedly.