In a further strain in the diplomatic ties over the marines issue, Italy on Tuesday summoned Indian Ambassador Basant Kumar Gupta to voice its “dismay” at the “unacceptable delay” in trying two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen two years ago.
Gupta, who was summoned by the Foreign Ministry Segretary-General Michele Valensise, was told the case “shows an Indian desire to draw out the affair beyond all limits”, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Earlier in the day, stepping up pressure, Italy recalled its Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini for consultations over delay in decision on trying two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012.
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In a statement, the Italy Foreign Ministry condemned the delay saying: “a new and unacceptable delay by the Indian Supreme Court” in a case has heightened tensions between the two countries.
Italy’s reaction came within hours of the Supreme Court in New Delhi postponing till February 24 the hearing involving marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, facing murder charges.
Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino said in a statement that this “latest unacceptable'” delay proved that India was “incapable of handling this situation.” She said Italy’s main priority was to bring the two marines home and that she was recalling Ambassador Daniele Mancini for consultations.
Italy also asserted it will decide to deal with the situation of “ambiguous and unreliable” behaviour by Indian authorities.
“The Italian government has ordered the immediate recall of its Ambassador in India, Daniele Mancini, for consultations,” Bonino said after the Supreme Court in New Delhi postponed till February 24 the hearing involving marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, facing murder charges.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, official sources said Ministry of External Affairs have not been informed by Italy about the move. “There is no need for the Italian government to inform MEA, if they are calling their Ambassador for consultations.”
Justifying Ambassador’s “recall”, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro said, “The decision of the Italian government to recall the Ambassador to Italy is not only justified but unavoidable and reflects the sentiment of our people.”
The marines Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were on-board Italian vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’, shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, sparking diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.
The two, who are lodged in New Delhi’s Italian Embassy premises, have said they mistook the fishermen for pirates. The marines are on bail pending trial.
The Indian authorities have given their nod to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the matter, to prosecute the marines under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation And Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act (SUA). The SUA carries death penalty.
Italy has registered strong protest against India for slapping the provisions of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf (SUA) Act against the marines asserting that these provisions are slapped against pirates and its marines are not pirates.
India last week removed the possibility of a death penalty but insisted that the marines would still be prosecuted under the anti-piracy law.
Now, they face up to 10 years in jail. Italy said use of the anti-terror law equates it with being a terrorist state.
Last week, the Supreme Court had set February 18 for hearing arguments from both sides on the use of the SUA.
Italy had approached the SC on January 15.
The case has strained ties between the two countries. While the Rome wants the marines to be tried in Italy, claiming the incident took place in international waters, New Delhi says it has the right to try the Italian personnel as the victims were Indians on board an Indian fishing boat.
Italy has also lobbied with the European Union and the United Nations in this regard.
(With inputs from PTI, AP)