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Chandy has nothing to fear but fear itself

Taking part in a discussion on a leading Malayalam TV channel Reporter last night about the incident of the killing of two fishermen by sailors on board an Italian tanker, what struck me most was that the present state government led by chief minister Oommen Chandy lives on razor’s edge. 

This is the second time Chandy tried to ride the wave of rhetoric — the Mullaperiyar gaffe hasn’t yet got over —  and the only way it can be justified is that he is grandstanding by playing on the people’s emotions so that someone else doesn’t do that. Yet, he runs a government. Presumably, since the government survives on a wafer-thin majority, he has no choice. Every issue assumes larger-than-life political meaning within minutes. 
I can’t understand on what basis Chandy could be so categorical that the Italians will be tried for murder in the Kochi court. Even more preposterous was the state DGP’s assertion that no matter where the incident took place — territorial waters or international waters — Indian laws will prevail. 
There seems to be a total disconnect between Delhi and Thiruvanathapuram. The cautious wording of the MEA statement on the phone conversation between EAM S.M.Krishna and his Italian counterpart Guilio Maria Terzi di Sant’Agata went almost unnoticed in Thiruvanathapuram. Evidently, much transpired between Delhi and Rome on the diplomatic track. 
Belatedly, the realisation is dawning that so little is known definitively about where actually the crime took place. Everything depends on that, if one may so, as to where the killing occured. India has no jurisdiction over the international waters. The responsibility vests with the so-called ‘flag state’, which is Italy. 
To my mind, the Italian side has behaved with exemplary restraint. They allowed themselves to be escorted into the Kochi port without creating a ruckus. They have since proposed an amicable, mutually acceptable diplomatic solution. Their FM took the initiative to talk to Delhi. They have offered a joint probe into the incident. If the latest reports are accurate, they allowed their ship’s personnel to be questioned by Kerala Police. 
Now, if we remain adamant that the hare we caught has two horns no matter what the world thinks, and if the Italians are pushed against the wall, it won’t help matters. Italy has its sovereign rights, too. It is a full member of the United Nations – like India. Additionally, it is also a member of the European Union. This could needlessly turn into a diplomatic row where Delhi can find itself at the receiving end. India can do without all that. 
Terzi’s offer for a joint probe was eminently reasonable and should have been accepted. Krishna faltered. He got it wrong: there is no need for Congress Party to be defensive. The Indian nation is mature enough to discern the grain from the chaff. 
As a first step, the folks in Thiruvananthapuram should be asked to keep their trap shut. It is Mullaperiyar all over again — working up mass frenzy for political ends. Chandy could take a leaf from Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalaithaa. Boy, with what aplomb is she wrapping up the endgame over Kudankulam! Chandy is an agitator par excellence, no doubt. But today he is also expected to be a ruler. 
Finally, there is food for thought for the Hindutva brigade too, which is gleefully taunting the government. I am sure they will start fulminating ‘Bharat Mata ki jay’ if an Indian ship were to be caught up in similar unhappy circumstances off Thailand. I suppose they would then say that since India is the ‘flag state’, the ship should be returned and the sailors would be tried in our courts. Doublespeak has its limits when it borders on hypocrisy. The very thought is disgusting — making politics out of a corpse.

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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13 Responses

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  1. george thomas says

    Bhadrakumar,
    You have got it all wrong. The Captain of the ship did not even try evasive action, let alone tell the “trigger-happy” marines to fire. It is nothing short of murder of two fishermen.
    Oommen Chandy needs to be commended for his actions. The boat-owner is from Tamil Nadu and both dead men are Tamilians, even though one of them had married a Kerala woman. What has Jayallitha done for them? Kerala even compensated the T.Nadu man whose body was taken and buried there.
    Wait till JJ does a U-turn on Kudankulam.

  2. yogiat007 says

    The facts of the case,as available from various media sources, are extraordinary to justify a hard stance by India. Firstly,the Italian ship’s trigger happy guards had no sound basis to forego all other options and open fire on the hapless fishermen,thinking of them as pirates,because there has been no good reason to believe that pirates could be operating so close to India. Recently there has been no report of piracy coming so close to Indian shores.The nearest reported occurrence was about 200 nautical miles away from the coast. This incident has happened within India’s contiguous zone (24 nautical mile limit) in which certain laws of the land apply,though not criminal code. Secondly,pirates are known to attack in skiffs,with high speed Outboard motors helping them to charge at the target with a relative speed advantage. In the present case,the fishermen were merely loitering in the area with their low speed country boat. The author lauds the fact that the Italian ship ‘allowed itself’ to be escorted into Kochi harbour. Well, he perhaps just omitted the part by error that the ship was trying to run away in the first instance,till the Indian Coast Guard dispatched its ships to warn her and seek compliance. Moreover,as per media reports the Italian ship initially said that it was ‘fired upon’ first and the guards returned fire in reply,which has turned out to be an absolute pack of lies. Also,the guards claim to have fired warning shots,wonder how warning shots,which are supposed to be fired away from the target, found the bodies of the two fishermen, ensconced in the boat? The Italian guards are in reality regular members of Italian armed forces,soldiers and marines, who are supposed to adhere to stringent Rules of Engagement and not behave in such arbitrary manner. The author should feel proud of our people who have handled the matter very professionally so far, with due participation of multiple agencies. Political statements reflecting the mood of the common people are bound to contain some jingoism. That cannot be avoided in delicate moments like these.One can well imagine what would have been the consequences if an Indian merchant ship would have fired on a fishing trawler of some European country. Remember the plight of the two Indian shipping officers who were jailed in South Korea on charges of causing pollution in harbour – it was an indirect charge yet they were not spared. The members of the Italian armed forces have behaved irresponsibly causing the death of two innocent and poor fishermen. The least that they could do is spend some time answering questions of the Kerala Police.The author seems to be concerned about how Italy would feel in the wake of our response. I wonder whether Italy showed any interest when India was inquiring about Quattarochi and his ill gotten wealth? The fact is – Italian marines (and mind you not private guards but soldiers) have killed Indian citizens and the least Italy can do is to allow the halting Indian justice system to take its own time, the noise made by its politicians being a part of the package. After all,in the time of recession,India placed huge orders on Italian shipbuilding yards,allowing them to resuscitate. Contrary to what the author says,I feel that it is India which has shown great restraint in the matter by not arresting the suspects till the Italian side diplomatically relented.

  3. antoniopope says

    A CLEANER FOR FONIA, AS HE ASSERTS, HINDUSTVA THE WORD IS BORROWED FROM CONGRESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE INCIDENT. EVIDENTLY AGAINST THIS PAID COLUMN BY THIS FORMER NOMINATED AMBASSODOR THE FATALITY OCCURED IN INDIAN WATERS AND NO CO-OPERATION WAS GIVEN BY THE CREW OF THE ITALIAN SHIP OR BY THE CONSULATE OF ITALY. HE MUST BE READING A WRONG NEWS AS USUAL IN ORDER TO HELP THE CURRENT UPA HEADED BY AN ITALIAN WOMEN WHO IS DRIVING THE WHOLE CHARADE BEHIND THE DRIVERS SEAT WITHOUT ANY RESPONSIBILITY. FORMER AMBASSODORS LIKE BHADRAKUMAR ONLY BEATING THE DRUM ACCORDING TO THE TUNE OF THE RULING CLASS TODAY HEADED BY DYNASTY?

  4. emmanuel kj says

    Chandy is an astute politician and he knows how to play his cards whether it is with Mullaperiyar’s or with Italians.

  5. emmanuel kj says

    I admire S M Krishna and the centre who is backing KERALA. Indian fishermen are nations wealth.

  6. emmanuel kj says

    You cant argue that because Italy is a member of EU we should not take any action. Better than that is to say that the Pope has made a Kerala Bishop Cardinal and so we should set the Italians scotfree. I think Centre was right in asking Kerala Govt. to file case against Murder charges. Also Mullaperiyar and this incident is of no comparison.

  7. emmanuel kj says

    So what all you meant to write is that any nation can kill Indian Fishermen (Or Is It Kerala Fishermen) and get away with it as long as it is far from the shore!?

    That is what we here understand. And by the way what authourity you have to write so presumptuously about Mullaperiyar.We will do what we feel is justified.
    Emmanuel

  8. Sanoj Varghese says

    dear bhadrakumar, Indian coastal area is not a shooting range for practicing or enjoying… there are no incidents of pirates attacks in this region… No need of thinking abt the international manners, diplomatic problems or other European union problems as those killers didn’t think abt such manners. Let the killers be under Indian Custody until the probe finishes.. And y u are so much bothered abt Chandy’s issue… He may have a political view in it. But he is much much better leader than many of our ideological leaders in many many aspects… Those people from indian counter part discussing abt the issue is well aware of the manners to keep in such situations than you.. let them do their duty…

  9. kallol paul says

    Make the Italians face the consequences for being so foolish.Its a typical Western Mentality!!

  10. Varsha says

    Death of two poor fishermen will not haunt you, praise your Italian gods.
    what right those Italians have to fire at poor Indians, Be an Indian first then preach diplomacy

  11. sarfarosh says

    it is a good article sans the last para. Why is that a comparison is made to an hypothetical incident for stereotyping.

  12. asha says

    Oomen Chandy is a cunning politician and the stance he is taking now has to do with the coming bye election at piravom where Cong led UDF has to win at any cost. Inorder to win the election he has to say ‘YES’ to public opinion even if they are wrong.

  13. vasanthasenan says

    ‘Save our Sailors ‘ was the campign conducted by International Maritime Organisation ( a UN wing for shipping) last year. It was because sailors were getting unnecessarily harassed / arrested and jailed by many countries on flimsy reasons for acts conducted in international waters. US being leader here. If the article is correct why should US arrest sailors. It is the responsibility of Flag states. The article makes me think that we are Indians so we should swallow this incident and not act like US , South Africans or Japan on similar incidents.
    Enough with sperating grain and chaff. Eat the grain and stand up on your feet.

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