It is welcome that the issue of the two Italian marines has been resolved amicably between the governments of India and Italy. The Italian state has clarified that it was worried about the death sentence that could have been potentially handed to the two marines. With the Indian government having assured the Italian counterpart that there was little possibility of the death sentence being meted out, the latter had no objection to the marines being subjected to the law courts in India. The issue had blown out of proportion when the Italian government failed to return the two marines to India despite assurances to the contrary. It had the potential to create much bad blood between the two countries, ruining years of diplomatic effort to build a firm, friendly and stable relationship. The two marines had been allowed home by the Supreme Court of India to vote in Italy’s national election as also to meet their families in good faith. It was most unexpected when Italy reneged on its pledge. It is usually not done in the converse between nations to violate a pledge given by an ambassador. The marines face trial for killing two Kerala fishermen on the high seas, but where exactly they did so is disputed by the two countries.
As far as Italy is concerned the incident occurred on international waters well outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts while India holds that the shooting took place on domestic waters thus placing the two erring individuals well within the disciplinary jurisdiction of India. These are points of dispute that can easily be settled by the Indian courts. There is little reason to believe that these courts will be less than fair to the Italian marines. If the law is found to be in their favour, they may well escape any punishment for the trigger-happy incident. The Italian government should not have reacted in a knee-jerk fashion and should not have tried to shield the marines from the Indian courts. It has, however, to be congratulated for swiftly changing its stand in order to uphold the word of its ambassador. The Indian government, too, deserves to be commended for keeping up the diplomatic pressure that has led Italy to relent. The government has done well to have left no diplomatic avenue unexplored in the effort to retrieve the two marines. Now, it has to be ensured that they are given a fair trial as well as that such incidents are not repeated on the high seas.