Millennium Post

Deal or diplomacy?

Deal or diplomacy?
Despite the return of the two Italian marines to India on Friday evening after a diplomatic stand-off, questions were raised whether it was indeed a diplomatic victory or a deal. The marines are facing trial for killing two Kerala fishermen. Meanwhile, Delhi High Court has issued order for setting up special court for their trial, sources said late on Friday night.

Even as the Union External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, vehemently denied any deal or condition saying India only ‘clarified’ Italian concerns regarding the arrest of marines upon their return and whether they would be awarded capital punishment, the Italian government in a press conference late on Friday evening at their embassy in New Delhi spoke otherwise.

Italian government’s junior foreign minister Staffan de Mistura late Friday evening said Italy’s change of heart happened only after they got a letter from the Indian government assuring them that there is no possibility of death penalty for the marines. ‘We had to obtain guarantee. The potential diplomatic crisis has been aborted. The marines are now in our embassy,’ he said.

‘Word of our ambassador is sacred. We had suspended the affidavit of our ambassador only on the issue of death penalty. So no possibility of death penalty was enough to take away suspension of the (affidavit),’ he said.

He demanded that the proceedings in case are ‘expedited’ and the special court to start the trial (as directed by SC in India) is ‘established as soon as possible’, adding that, ‘We want justice … We want clarity. He, however, clarified that Italy’s official position still remains that the marines are liable to be judged back in Italy as their action (as part of Italy’s military) was in international waters.

Khurshid, however, had earlier said that India has not ‘assured’ or ‘promised’ anything but only ‘clarified’ Italy’s concerns regarding the duo’s arrest on their return and on their chances of getting death sentence in the case.

On Italy’s apprehension about death penalty for the marines, India clarified that this case would not fall in the rarest of rare case category which attract death penalty. Secondly, on marines’ arrest India told Italy that they will not be liable for arrest if they return by the deadline of Friday set by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that their return would be in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court and consistent with the dignity of the judicial process in India. ‘We are happy with the outcome. I welcome the return of Italian naval guards,’ he added.
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