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Scare at Rome mission

New Delhi, Feb. 21: India has asked Italy to bolster security at its embassy in Rome after the mission received hate messages and a bullet in its mailbox this week amid tension between the nations over murder charges New Delhi has pressed against two Italian marines.

“We have sensitised our friends in Italy and hope that necessary measures will be taken to ensure safety and security,” ministry of external affairs joint secretary and spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said today, confirming the apparent threats received by the embassy.

India’s consulate in Milan has been barracked for the past three weeks by protesters demanding that New Delhi release the marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are currently charged under am anti-piracy law that could attract the death penalty.

The dispute, triggered by the arrest of the marines after they shot dead two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February 2012, escalated this week with Italy recalling its ambassador to India Daniele Mancini for consultations, and the Italian foreign minister questioning India’s judicial system.

Italy has demanded that India, which had promised not to seek the death penalty, withdraw charges against the marines under the anti-piracy law. The Supreme Court is scheduled for a key hearing on Monday where the attorney-general is expected to inform the court about whether the government will withdraw these charges.

The government’s handling of the dispute could emerge a key political talking point in Kerala, where the Congress is in power and hopes to secure a significant chunk of the state’s 20 Lok Sabha seats in the coming elections.

India had conducted a security review of its embassy last year, after intelligence concerns that protesters may attack the mission and its diplomats.But Akbaruddin reminded that under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a host nation is responsible for the security of all foreign missions on its soil.