Indo-Italy ties seem to have reached a boiling point. Now that the Indian govt. has been publicly snubbed and the issues hogging the headlines, the country has lost face in the International community. There are various opinions and theories floating around ranging from questioning the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s wisdom in allowing the two Italian marines to go to Italy to an allegedly bartered deal for Augusta Westland details.
Keeping aside these theories what it has brought to the fore is the shoddy homework done by the govt. and the prosecution when the issue came up for hearing in Supreme Court. The govt. first of all didn’t oppose the marines request to go to Italy to cast vote in the general elections. The bigger blunder was that the information about the option of “Postal Ballot” as per the Italian law came to govt’s knowledge only after all the hara-kiri had happened. Why this public piece of information was not in the prosecution’s knowledge is perhaps known to them for reasons best known to them only.
It can be recalled that Rome was never convinced that its two marines were under the purview of Indian jurisdiction and it was only after submitting a “heavy” surety that the two accused marines were allowed to go home on Christmas. Now, whether such a treatment would have been meted out to Indian marines in a foreign country in entirely debatable.
It was the largesse of the Supreme Court to allow the marines to go and vote. The fact that the Italian ambassador to India himself gave a personal surety and the marines had returned after Christmas allowed the Supreme Court to be more liberal having certain degree of trust over the marines.
Now to save face the govt. needs to take tough action – quite uncharacteristic of it. Although, the popular opinion being to expel the Italian envoy the Supreme Court has directed him not to leave the country which is all the more right as he is culpable for contempt of the court. Infact, no such incident comes to one’s knowledge where a sovereign nation reneged on its promise in a court of law. The Indian govt. seems to be in a very tight spot and it will take nothing less than delicate but shrewd political maneuvering to resolve this diplomatic standoff.