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It is payback time for Italy. Period.

From all appearance, the blame game has begun over the anticipated failure of the government’s proforma efforts to probe the bribery allegations in the VVIP helicopter deal. It appears that the Defence Ministry seeks to put the blame on the Indian embassy in Rome and the Ministry of External Affairs in South Block. 


But these antics won’t wash. Maybe, the Mission in Rome does lack an Italian-speaking officer at senior level. So what? It is not unusual that a Mission employs local interpreters. How many embassies in Chanakyapuri can handle Tamil or Bengali languages? 

Italian is a ‘rare’ language which is not spoken widely outside of Italy and it is impractical to train a whole cadre of foreign service officers so that they can serve — and reserve and reserve — in the Mission in Rome till they superannuate at the age of sixty. The IFS cadres are traditionally trained in one of the ‘major’ languages — French, Spanish, Arabic, et al — and the policy is sensible and cost-effective. 

However, that is not the real issue here. The main hitch in the Defence Ministry’s probe into the scandal at the Italian end is going to be that the India-Italy relationship at the political level is at an all-time low level today.

Suffice to say, the Italians know it is payback time and they can be trusted to apply full ‘reciprocity’ by invoking the ‘due process of law’ — which is exactly what our government did in the case of the two Italian Marines languishing in the Indian custody for the past one year. 

The Italians moved heaven and earth — including at the level of their prime minister — to find a mutually acceptable compromise with our government on the case of the two Marines. They even suggested that at the very minimum, a joint investigation should be held on the incident last year involving the Marines in order to establish the facts. 

But our leaders dismissively parried and kept insisting doggedly that the ‘due process of law’ will take its course and that is how India works — despite the Italians having begun a case in their courts in the matter. 

Simply put, it was politically expedient for our government to take a hard line in the case of the Italian Marines. There were two reasons. One, the government was needlessly on the defensive because Congress President Sonia Gandhi happens to be an Indian of Italian origin and our weak leaders were patently nervous that false accusations might arise that Delhi was kowtowing to Rome. 

Two, Congress Party was fighting a key bypoll in Kerala last year, which was critical to the continuance of the UDF government in power in Thiruvananthapuram and it paid to act tough in the case of the Italian Marines, which happened to be in the public limelight.   

Ironically, Defence Minister A. K. Antony was one of the Congress leaders from Kerala who took a particularly strident public stance on the case Italian Marines. To be sure, Rome will make it a point to pay back in the same coin when Antony seeks the help of the Italian government. 

Again, according to the Delhi grapevine, the Ministry of External Affairs was all for an amicable settlement of the case of the Italian Marines but Congress Party’s political requirements prevailed over the professional advice. In fact, in an almost identical case last year when an American naval ship shot and killed two Indians near Dubai, our government initially made a fuss but then abruptly piped down and bent over backward to close the file. No one cares anymore. 
Don’t the Italians take note of all these shenanigans of our weak leadership? They are a proud people with an enviable heritage in international diplomacy and they will string the Indian investigators deputed to Rome on Antony’s instructions till our chaps cried ‘Mother Mary’. That is the plain honest truth. 
For our Defence Ministry to turn the situation around on its head now and to accuse that the dearth of Italian-speaking officers in the Mission in Rome hampers its robust probe is simply a churlish act. 

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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5 Responses

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  1. shilpy says

    i don’t buy the premise of this article. that the italian govt would bring down the reputation of its own leading defense company just to allegedly settle scores with indian govt – one headed by an italian! – just does not make sense. in the end italy stands to lose, its own reputation and its great influence via sonia. but, then, if they have decision makers there as “smart” as raul gandhi, then who knows.

  2. Seven Maniacs says

    Interesting article… i am very convinced that India has a leadership deficit and that impairs our political posturing on international issues. This was one area where an Indira or a Vajpayee were ahead of their contemporaries and won respect worldwide for their leadership.

  3. Sat Sharma says

    Our Indian political leaders from the Congress party are a lot of totally dishonest and spineless people. They have always preferred to be subservient to the white skin right from the days of Mahatma Gandhi. The only thing that has changed it that Gandhi was a stooge of the British but the present Congressmen are the stooges of an Italian white lady. God may not be able to save this country!

  4. Vijay Rajvaidya says

    Italy is not at the zenith of their economic power. As a matter of fact they are the venerable “I” in PIGS. If they want to risk cancellation of the whole chopper order they could very well play “hard ball”. Obviously, our MEA has to find spine and learn to play “ball”. Even “soft ball” will do in this case but they are used to playing “begging bowl” of 1960′s. It’s hard to get rid of defeatism and mediocrity from their psyche. VVIP choppers are not critical to our defense. It’s Italy which needs to worry about the cancellation, not India. MEA had been dragging its feet for one or the other reason and not pursuing this case vigorously, PERIOD.

    Vijay Rajvaidya

  5. www www says

    “”Don’t the Italians take note of all these shenanigans of our weak leadership? They are a proud people with an enviable heritage in international diplomacy and they will string the Indian investigators deputed to Rome on Antony’s instructions till our chaps cried ‘Mother Mary’. That is the plain honest truth””

    Where is your pride? What do you suggest we should do? Thats what we want to hear….

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