|Mancini at an entrepreneurship summit in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 14: India has stiffened markedly towards Italy, saying it is in the process of “thoroughly reviewing” bilateral ties in the face of its refusal to send back the two marines to face trial for murder.
As a first step, it has decided to put off the departure of ambassador-designate Basant Gupta to assume duties in Rome. The first instalment of Gupta’s baggage was to have been shipped yesterday; The Telegraph learns it was held back. No date has been set for when the new envoy may travel to his new post. “At the moment he is very much here in the ministry of external affairs,” spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said when asked when Gupta was likely to sign up on his new job.
Widening the diplomatic scope of its case against the Italian about-turn, the foreign office also decided to convey its ire and disapproval to EU ambassador Joao Cravinho. Although there was no official word on what exactly transpired, India is hoping that EU member-states will bring pressure upon Italy to respect its pledge to the top Indian court. “We are working the diplomatic back-channels, both with Italy and other nations,” an MEA official said. “But it is too early yet to assess what these efforts will yield.”
New Delhi’s mounting indignation at the Italians cocking a snook at the Supreme Court was equally evident in the manner that Akbaruddin challenged suggestions that judicial restraining orders on Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini amounted to a violation of Vienna Convention norms. “We have read the Vienna Convention, tell us which aspect of the Vienna Convention has been violated in what has happened.”
The Supreme Court has instructed ambassador Mancini not to leave India without its permission and asked him to submit a reply by March 18 on why Italy has chosen to recant on explicit guarantees that the marines — Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre — will return to India to face trial for the murder of two Kerala fishermen in the Arabian Sea.
Asked if the government could resort to physically preventing Mancini from leaving the country, Akbaruddin curtly said: “That’s a hypothetical question, I am not responding to any hypothetical assumptions.”
To a supplementary on whether the government will stand by the Supreme Court’s directive to the Italian ambassador, Akbaruddin was blunt. “Nobody in the government of India will say they will not abide by the Supreme Court order… and this does not impact the Vienna Convention.”
Elaborating his point, the MEA spokesperson said: “If someone willingly submits to the jurisdiction of a legal framework, that jurisdiction applies…. The first step of international public law is that agreements ought to be respected. We expect the Italian ambassador to respect the undertaking he gave to the Supreme Court, that’s the first and primary thing. The matter is being adjudicated by the highest court of India.”
The Indian establishment is drawing some relief from the fact that there is time yet before the March 22 deadline set by the Supreme Court for the marines to return expires. That gives the foreign office time to negotiate and manoeuvre, even to think through possible measures it could resort to.
“We have initiated a study of interactions with Italy, and at the end of that internal process we will take appropriate action in accordance with our relations,” Akbaruddin said. “We are reviewing things very thoroughly, thinking out all the aspects very carefully.”