India and Italy have failed to resolve their dispute over the fate of two Italian marines accused of fatally shooting two Indian fishermen off the southwest Indian coast mid February.
The marines were providing security on a cargo ship and mistook the fishermen for pirates. They are in custody in Kochi.
Italian Foreign Minister Guilio Terzi travelled to New Delhi for talks on the incident with Foreign Minister S M Krishna Tuesday. After the talks,he said they still disagreed on which country has jurisdiction in the case.
New Delhi says the Italians should be tried in India because the killings happened on an Indian boat. Rome says the shooting took place in international waters and the case should be handled under international law.
Meeting in the backdrop of the “unfortunate” incident,Krishna and Giulio Terzi di Sant’ Agata discussed the on-going investigation in the case and tried to “clear the air” over the killing which has led to the detention of two Italian marines in Kochi.
“We met in the backdrop of an unfortunate incident… There is a very strong public opinion on both sides. Minister Terzi and I agreed that we need to clear the air so that people in both countries are reassured…,” Krishna told a joint media event with the Italian minister.
Though the visit was prescheduled,the incident is dominating the stay of Terzi,who is also travelling to Kochi where he will meet the two Italian Mariners detained for the killing.
Asserting that there were “differences of opinion” between India and his country over the incident,the Minister said,”I have explained frankly the position of our government on the legal aspect… There is a difference of opinion and it has not been resolved”.
“We hope to pursue the matter in a friendly spirit,understanding and cooperation,” he said.
Conveying Italy and its people’s condolences to India and the families of fishermen killed,Terzi said the “unfortunate” incident took place due to the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean region.
“Our sailor men in Kochi have been the victims of the same reason that caused the death of two Indian fishermen,the threat of piracy,” he said.
While Terzi appreciated India’s readiness to keep Italian observers in the loop on the judicial process,Krishna said “We are of the view that our relations are mature and based on strong foundations. This gives us the ability to address challenges together.”
Differing on who has the jurisdiction to try the two Italian security guards who shot dead the fishermen,Italy maintains the shooting took place in the high seas,but India is firm that the incident was close to the coast of Kerala and country’s law will be applicable. The men are at present being tried by a Kerala court.
Meanwhile,official sources maintained that both countries are trying to “isolate and insulate” the relationship from the incident and said the discussion on the incident was a “small part” of the deliberations between the two foreign ministers.
Krishna said he also thanked Minister Terzi for assuring him of his personal attention to alleviate the difficulties being faced by members of the Sikh community in Italy.
“We appreciate the measures taken by the Italian government and look to Italy’s continued support in resolving this issue,” he said.
There have been reports of Sikhs being asked to remove their turbans at the security check at the Italian airports which goes against the religious sentiments of the community.
Terming economic and trade relations as “central to our relationship”,Krishna said,”We have a vibrant bilateral trade and economic relationship with Italy. Italy is now India’s 5th largest trading partner in the European Union.”
Bilateral trade grew at the rate of around 28 per cent to reach 7.21 billion Euros in 2010,and it grew further by 24 per cent during January-October of the last year compared to same period in 2010.
“There is also enormous opportunity for expansion of Italian investment in India. We would like to see these to grow,to achieve their full potential. Both sides will continue to work in this direction,” Krishna added.