Almost all major English newspapers in the West uniformly carried the AP dispatch on the arrest of the two Italian sailors by the Kerala Police, which is based on the Italian viewpoint that the Indian laws cannot prevail and that Rome and Delhi disagree.
Meanwhile, the Italians have begun a probe of their own and will demand that the Indians must conduct their probe in Italy itself. The Shipping Minister G K vasan parried when asked specifically and pointedly whether the trial would take place in India. All he would say was that what happened was an ‘unpardonable crime’ and “Punishment should be given to the guilty.”
From all appearance, the probe will continue in Italy itself. The Italian foreign ministry has issued a strong statement, which suggests it might even raise the issue in the UN. The diplomatic row is deepening.
The two Italian navy men belong to the highly-decorated San Marco Regiment (which was raised in 1713) and Rome can be expected to do all it can to insist that they enjoy immunity. For the present, Delhi has allowed the Kerala Police to arrest the Italians, which has been essentially a political decision to save the face of the Congress-led government in Kerala.
Politics now takes over – at least until the Piravom bypoll for Kerala assembly, due on March 18, gets over. It is a closely contested by-election on which the survival of the Congress-led government depends to a great extent.
For the present, Congress can do grandstanding that the UPA government didn’t blink in the light of Italian pressure. But Italy will not acquiesce with the trial of its Marines in an Indian court and in all likelihood, the snowballing controversy would have far-reaching implications for both Kerala politics and India-Italy relations. These are early days.
– February 20, 2012